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I Married A Car Guy: My Journey Toward Car Literacy

Hi, I'm Debbie Nol, and I married a car guy. My 14 years of working at Arie Nol Auto Center has been an incredible journey, building amazing relationships with customers and learning so much from our experienced technicians.

Now I'm launching a blog to share what I've learned about cars and some of my most memorable customer stories. Hopefully you will find my blog both helpful and entertaining!

Deer in road Check engine light

Every day I drive past a home that has a decoy deer in the yard. The first couple of times it took me by surprise and I actually slowed down, thinking it was real. I don't even notice it anymore.

This week I was driving by and I realized the deer was still there. He's looking a little worse for wear but he still hasn't moved. I was thinking about how we get so accustomed to something that after a while we don't even see it anymore.

A check engine light, or malfunction indicator light, can be like that deer. At first, you notice it and it catches your attention. After a while, your brain lulls itself into thinking that light is nothing. You don't even notice the light anymore, just like I don't notice the fake deer.

Customers will sometimes be in vehicles and let us know that the check engine light “has been on for months.” It doesn't bother them because they figure the car is still running well, so it must not be a problem. And it might not be. Sometimes the light came on for a reason, months ago. Maybe just a temporary issue that caused the computer to think there was a problem. Since it wasn't checked, the light stayed on. But then another problem started to occur. That code is also causing the light to be on. Getting your check engine light notification checked is important. We’ve actually seen vehicles with tape over the light because people didn't want to see it.

Your car is talking to you. You should listen to it!

Greek urn 2 Shoe closet Roman sandal

Can you imagine the first person to strap some leather to their feet for protection? I'm sure it wasn't very pretty.

Over 2000 years ago, someone actually took several pairs of shoes and put them in an earthen jar. These shoes were discovered in a burial site in Luxor. They believe they placed them in a wall because they were the most valuable possession they owned. They may have intended to return for them and never did.

Fast forward to 2016. Some people think of shoes as simply foot protection. A female customer and I were talking about our difference in opinion about footwear. She buys a pair of shoes and wears them until they wear out. I could not comprehend that statement.

Some people feel like that about cars. Drive whatever works for you and then replace as needed. Some people love a certain type of car and may collect them. Others, like Jay Leno, collect cars of all types, makes, and vintages.

I would like to be the Jay Leno of shoes. Spring is coming and I'm lured by all the pretty espadrilles, sandals and strappy-type shoes. My Pinterest board is filled with all the spring styles that I love.

So, let me know. Would you rather be the Jay Leno of cars or shoes? Perhaps both, and match your shoes to the car you're driving that day.

image1I had the opportunity to attend the 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan awards. There were over 800 people there celebrating women that are making a difference in West Michigan. Sonia Manzano, Maria from Sesame Street, was the keynote speaker. Ms. Monzano was inspirational while speaking about how she ended up where she did and why it made a difference.

Our city amazes me with its ability to recreate itself. When I was younger, downtown Grand Rapids was somewhere you rarely went. Herpolsheimer’s department store was one of the only reasons to go downtown. Here we are in 2016 and you can see the drastic changes that have helped our city end up on so many lists of “great places to live” lately.

Listening to the honorees and hearing their words of encouragement and motivation was doubly enjoyable as my daughter was there with me. She had the opportunity to speak with several women at our table that are doing research which will eventually impact us all.

The Grand Rapids Business Journal held the event and recognized the women that are instrumental in making Grand Rapids the great city it is to live and work. I am thankful to be a part of a community that values its citizens, celebrates the good, and focuses on making lives better through both words and deeds.

We are proud to be a part of the Grand Rapids community. It was a terrific event, that in many cases, showed the entrepreneurial spirit of our city and the benefit of a positive, can-do attitude.

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This is the time of year when our thoughts turn to Springbreak. The migration of northern state residents to the sun and surf of the southern state beaches. The tide rolling in while the sun shines down on us, our toes tucked into the sand.

Before that moment, there is the drive for many people. Bumper to bumper, cars headed south. Your vehicle is packed with snacks, pillows, a video player of some sort, bathing suits and suncreen. The sunscreen is for our pale, hasn't seen the sun in months, northern skin. Forgetting this leads to sunburn, blisters and possibly missing a couple of days in the sun. When I was a teenager, we laid out in the sun covered in baby oil and fried ourselves. After the blisters healed and the red faded, you might, if you weren't me, end up with a tan. We’re so much smarter now and know the value of suncreen and SPF.

While you dream of this trip on a gray, snowy day, make a call to your local repair facility. Schedule an appointment to have your vehicle checked over. Get an oil change, fluids checked, have them check the wear on your tires and have your wiper blades replaced if necessary. Being low on oil or coolant can add a stop on the trip and rob you of sun time. It could also cause you to run out of movies for the kids and start to have to repeat movies. Calling ahead several weeks gives you the opportunity to schedule a time and date that fits into your busy schedule.

Have a great trip and enjoy the sun!

Pothole Scrap parts

This winter hasn’t been too bad. The roads however, started out bad and winter weather always makes them worse. We’ve been having some customers come in after reporting hitting pot holes. We’ve all done it. Driving down the road and all of the sudden you are trying to avoid a pothole without hitting the cars around us. As your tire rolls into the hole in the road, you calmly begin hoping there is no damage.

Maybe not so calmly, because unfortunately, those holes in the road can cause a lot of damage. According to the annual TRIP study, the average Michigan motorist pays an additional $686.00 annually in repair and fuel dollars due to the bad roads.

Your best bet is obviously to avoid the potholes. If that isn’t possible and you’ve hit one with your car, you need to pull over. Take a look at your tire and look for damage. Is there tread damage or a bulge on the side of the tire? Look at the rim of the tire and see if there is any damage. If you don’t see any damage, then drive your car. Does your steering feel off or is there a pull to one side? If your vehicle feels or drives differently, you should get it checked out.

An automotive shop isn’t going to think you’re being over cautious. We’ve seen far too many vehicles that have had serious damage that made the car unsafe to drive. I believe it is always better to be safe than sorry and it also gives you piece of mind.

Dental tools

Picture going into a dentist office, telling them you have pain in the lower left side of your jaw. You had a friend that had the same symptoms and that person had a cavity. You precede to tell the dentist you would like him to figure out which tooth needs to be filled without x-rays or looking in your mouth. You think you know which tooth it is and tell him that’s the one he should start drilling.

There is a good chance you are going to be disappointed with the outcome of this scenario. This isn’t the recommended oral health care choice. In the automotive repair business, as diagnoses becomes more complicated, we deal with this sometimes. Back in the day most people could diagnose their vehicle or their neighbor could. That isn’t true anymore. There are many more complicated electronic and computer systems that exist in your car.

We work with our customers to educate them as to why diagnosing the problem in many situations is less expensive than just beginning to replace parts hoping you hit on the correct malfunctioning part. The technician feels confident after the diagnoses that he is correctly repairing your vehicle, and you will be happier because the actual issue will be addressed.

Like a dentist who has to purchase his x-ray machine, train a technician to correctly and safely take an x- ray, and then read the x-ray while taking into consideration your symptoms, there can be a lot involved in a car diagnoses. Knowledge, equipment and listening to the customer all need to happen to correctly fix the problem.

If a service writer is explaining that the technician needs to spend some time checking into the problem, it isn’t a way to inflate the cost of your repair. Today’s vehicles are filled with complicated systems. Our goal as an automotive repair and maintenance facility is to keep your vehicle running. And when it isn’t, our goal is to repair it correctly and get it back to you as swiftly as possible.