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lou's garage

Even the simplest of tasks we used to take for granted, such as getting a driver’s license, have been majorly disrupted. Case in point, my two eldest, university-age daughters obtained their beginners driver’s permits well before the pandemic began and like many others, were stranded, unable to complete their in-car test.

The girls began searching outside the Toronto area for a test centre, but couldn’t find anywhere with a wait list shorter than six months. When dad, the problem solver, jokingly proposed they check my hometown of Sault St. Marie, they took me seriously. Thus, forcing a three-day, 1,500-kilometre round-trip journey that inadvertently turned into a wonderful family minivacation and thankfully produced two newly licensed drivers.

The youngest daughter is now experiencing that same heartache, having just turned 16. Trying to get into a local drive test centre is an experience in patience. Local facilities have parking lots with makeshift barriers for the 150-plus people waiting in line. Ever determined, she bundled up and waited in frigid temperatures for hours before finally getting her shot. Unfortunately, she failed. Dismayed but not defeated and while standing again in that same lengthy line a week later, I’m confident she learned a valuable life lesson.

Comparatively, 50 per cent of the vehicles we are currently servicing are in some way delayed due to parts supply chain issues. Sourcing special order parts for contemporary vehicles used to be an easy task, but dealer after dealer is now indicating back-order statuses on items that are not that obscure. A part that previously only required a simple query is now taking quadruple the time to source. If it’s not a back-order situation, then it’s a delivery service that is crippled with only one third of their normal work force available due to COVID-related illnesses.

Most customers are reasonable and understanding that the service may take longer to complete, but there are those who have no concept of life outside their own bubble. It is these select few who make it more complicated and stressful than it should be for everyone in the service industry. We are all just doing the best we can to cope, despite the changes the pandemic has brought. So, the next time a lengthy line at the grocery store is challenging your schedule, remember to give the staff a break. Chances are they are severely short-handed, overworked and barely able to keep up. You can wait a few more minutes without getting upset with the staff.

Your automotive questions, answered

Hi Lou,

I have a 2010 Golf that will be needing new tires this spring. The current tires are P205/55R16. Could I go to P215/60R16, which are approx. one-inch larger diameter to reduce the speedometer error of 11 per cent to about six per cent?

Is it even a good idea if the tire size fits?

Bill K

As technicians we follow the rules set by the applicable associations. In this case, the tire associations of both Canada and the United States say a tire may not have a rolling circumference difference greater than three per cent from original equipment. So, any repair or tire shop should technically refuse to install the larger tires you have mentioned.

I am not sure what you are referring to when you mention your speedometer error, but rest assured, putting those oversized tires on your car, is not the solution.

Hi Lou,

is it a good idea to use a battery charger/maintainer on a newly installed battery? The car can sit for a week or two without being used.


Paul C

The purpose of a battery maintainer is to maintain a battery that has been put into a storage state for an extended period. Therefore, the question in my mind is whether two weeks is long enough to be considered a storage situation. And no, I don’t believe two weeks qualifies as storage. While there is no official rule, I recognize a vehicle to be in storage after a complete season of non-use, in which case a battery maintainer would be essential. Your brand-new battery should be able to easily start your vehicle without any additional assistance. Of course, as that battery ages that may change.

A battery maintainer is a smart device that senses the charge state of the battery and adjusts the charging requirements as needed. A battery charger is a simple plug in and go device that charges at whatever specification determined by the charger manufacturer. Before maintainers were invented, the only choice was a simple charger. While similar devices, they are used for slightly different purposes.

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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