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lou's garage

This column is inspired by Tim G in Ontario, a reader who wrote in asking about hiring an auto broker for his next car purchase instead of doing it himself.

Hiring an auto/car broker is certainly an option and a quick local internet search will yield multiple options. I often get asked by my own customers to perform this exact task. In the past, I actually gave it a try and brokered a couple of deals on behalf of customers that I knew well. I went back to the dealers I had worked at prior to going on my own, found some familiar faces and tried my hardest to get the best deals I could for them. Truth be told, I did okay for them. I learned a lot; in particular, that I did not want to be an auto broker. I wasn’t a fan of the process any more than you as a consumer are.

There are certainly a lot of upstanding car brokers that will treat you right and make the job pain-free for you, but my question is always, who does the broker actually work for? You or the car dealer? Sadly, sometimes I’m not so sure. The task of finding the right broker may be as difficult as the new car purchase itself.

I also learned that buying a new car, while time consuming, is reasonably easy if you follow a few simple steps.

Firstly and most importantly, know exactly what model of vehicle you want, right down to the colour, trim level and every desired optional accessory by using the manufacturers website and pricing tools. When you are confident that you know exactly what you are looking for, walk into your first dealer with your notes. Most people have a trade-in so make sure it is cleaned, detailed and ready for inspection by the sales staff. Hammer out your best deal and then walk out the door without buying.

At your next available opportunity, repeat the process at another dealer using the offer from the first dealer as leverage. Repeat the process a couple more times and you will see that new car dealers do not actually have a lot of variance on the pricing of the new car itself.

Ever wonder why you see large signs on new car dealerships saying they will buy your car even if you don’t buy theirs? They want your trade-in, especially if it is in decent shape with reasonable mileage. Ten different dealers will give you totally different trade-in offers, usually differing by thousands of dollars. They will also have pricing on accessories, rustproofing and financing rates that can vary wildly.

I find that buyers get frustrated with the car-buying process, because they don’t do the necessary work beforehand by figuring out exactly what vehicle they want. They are brand wandering. Maybe they want an Audi or perhaps a Lexus, tomorrow it might be a Lincoln. Once you know exactly what you want, you can become an expert on that one vehicle very quickly and are now the person in charge, instead of feeling like you were just taken advantage of.

Many long-time customers come in for their first oil change and to show off their new vehicle. I’ve heard this story 1,000 times. Some old buddy just gave them the deal of a lifetime, a deal they just couldn’t walk away from. When I ask them about their trade in, guess what, they gave it away for thousands of dollars less than what it was actually worth.

Your automotive questions, answered

I can remote start my 2012 Camry LE and it shuts off after 10 minutes as designed. But sometimes when I start with the key soon after, it makes a clicking sound but does not start. However, when I get a boost, it starts right away. I switch it off two-three times and start it again and sit tarts right away.

Rasik J

The clicking noise you are hearing is the starter motor solenoid engaging, but the battery does not have sufficient energy in reserve to fully engage the starter motor. Your problem, however, is not starter-motor-related. This is a battery or alternator issue. Typically, when a battery sits for a few hours, it will recover some energy via the chemical reactions that occur inside the battery.

I assume that your first remote start is after the vehicle has sat for several hours recovering, and subsequent starts are done without the battery having had any time to recover. This is likely a sign of a battery that is nearing the end of its life. Have your battery tested with a newer style battery tester that can determine remaining battery life and you will likely find your answer. While you are at it, have the complete starting and charging system checked just to be sure, but I’m confident a new battery will solve your issue.

I have a 2011 Ford F-150 that I stored in an outside lot in Canada since October 2019. Not knowing how long I would be absent from the country, I unhooked the battery. I am hoping to retrieve my baby this summer or fall, and have it join me in the U.S., but would like to know how to prep it for the journey. I will have it towed to the dealership and will likely have to replace the battery, do an oil change, complete any outstanding recalls, (which I will have to take care of before importing to the U.S.), but wonder if there is anything else I should consider doing while at the dealership.

Mark W, California

Your thinking is on the right track but given the length of time it has been sitting, there may be some additional issues. The brake rotors will likely be heavily corroded, requiring replacement or at least aggressive servicing. Fluids will need to be inspected/replaced as moisture may be an issue due to it sitting outside for that extended period. The rubber hoses and serpentine belt will need a thorough inspection along with checking the tire condition. Basically, it will be like any other major service, but with some extras. There really shouldn’t be any huge surprises as F150s are tough vehicles, designed for extreme Canadian weather conditions. As a side note, make sure the dealer gives you a Ford Canada document stating that all vehicle recalls and outstanding campaigns have been completed, as you will require this during your importation process.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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