Maintenance tasks commonly carried out during a motor vehicle service include:

  • Tune the engine
  • Check level and refill brake fluid/clutch fluid
  • Check Brake Pads/Liners, Brake Discs/Drums, and replace if worn out.
  • Check level and refill power steering fluid
  • Check level and refill Automatic/Manual Transmission Fluid
  • Grease and lubricate components
  • Change the engine oil
  • Replace the oil filter
  • Replace the air filter
  • Replace the fuel filter
  • Replace the cabin filter
  • Replace the spark plugs
  • Check for any Error codes in the ECU and take corrective action.
  • Inspect and replace the timing belt or timing chain if needed
  • Check condition of the tires
  • Check for proper operation of all lights, wipers etc.
  • Wash the vehicle and clean the interiors.
  • Use scan tool read trouble code.

All About Oil

Rolls_Royce_KeyEngine Oil – Your Engine’s Lifeblood.

The other day I was driving my old pickup truck.  It has a great little 4-cylinder engine (Toyota’s 22RE if you’re geeky like me and care about that sort of thing).  Truly a great workhorse, this little truck serves us well in moving equipment and generally doing what trucks do. On my drive I noticed the engine was ever-so-slightly louder than normal.  Adding that to my knowledge of its overall condition and knowing it was due for an oil change I assumed (and later confirmed) it was low on engine oil.

No problem:  oil and filter changed as soon as it was back at the shop – engine noises returned to normal.

This experience got me thinking:  how does the general public know about such things?  The change in engine noise was subtle and, frankly, it was my years of industry experience that told me something many people would miss.  The risk to the engine was actually quite high and an inexperience or ill-informed motorist could have actually ended up damaging this trusty little engine.  Shame on me: I preach about engine oil all the time yet I was dangerously close to reaping the dome I warn others of.

I get questions about engine oil *all* the time and it is a very important topic.  Here is a short list of what I find helpful to share:

1 – engine oil is your vehicle’s (more correctly your engine’s) lifeblood.  Engine lubrication is CRITICAL – neglect here will undermine your vehicle’s longevity drastically.

2 – “it is always the strongest swimmers who drown”.  I love this expression. It applies so well to engine oil.  I find the more stoutly-built and tolerant an engine is the more neglect it receives from its owner.  Sad but true. Oil change intervals get dragged out, discount oil services or products get used, dirty or low oil conditions get ignored or never noticed…  This becomes a ‘lifestyle’ and before you know it: accelerated engine wear and premature failure happens. Statistically people develop these bad habits with more trustworthy engines and less so with fussier ones.  EG the Honda owner is more likely to do this than the Porsche owner. Hence the “stronger swimmer drowns”.

3 – Vehicles that are not driven very far contaminate their oil more.  Engine oil suffers from two common contaminants: fuel and water. Water is the bigger problem with modern cars – the engine is made of metal and it collects condensation as it cools – this condensation mixes with the engine oil and creates a sludge condition that will stick to engine parts – including oil passageways – this will restrict oil flow and undermine engine lubrication.  It might be counterintuitive but the best way to avoid this sludging is to run your engine hard regularly so the condensation is burnt out of the oil. Failing this your best defense is to change the oil. This pattern reduces the time-frame needed for your oil changes and if you have these driving habits (who doesn’t?) you need a more frequent oil change *time* interval: regardless of mileage I would advise a two to four times per year service interval.  For a very casually used vehicle (a summer-only convertible or perhaps an RV) I would change the oil annually – at the start of the season. I would do this even if the annual mileage is 500 miles or less.

4 – As an extension of the above:  sludge in your engine oil is very hard to get rid of.  Much like cholesterol in your blood, oil sludge cannot be removed easily and often removal strategies are risky.  Reversing sludge is difficult to impossible and thus sludge is best handled by simply avoiding it in the first place.  

5 – Modern direct-fuel-injection engines have been having failures with piston rings causing expensive internal engine damage due to abnormal carbon build-up from engine oil problems.  In these cases, an engine conditioner treatment during its oil change has been very effective at avoiding this problem.

6 – Synthetic oil is better.  Synthetic oil performs better at the extremes:  extreme temperatures, extreme (high or low) pressures, etc.  If your engine doesn’t require synthetic oil it will still benefit from this.  If you think about it the extremes are what we really care about. Engines don’t fail at idle or at cooler temperatures – they fail under stress; synthetic oil reduces this stress.  Engines that *require* synthetic oils are really just engines that the manufacture expects will be operated in more extremes. Included in ‘extremes’, surprisingly, are engines in hybrid vehicles.  I use synthetic oil in all my vehicles and recommend it to all my clients. A myth that needs busting: you are perfectly fine to switch your older engine from non-synthetic oil to synthetic any time.  It is *NOT* going to cause leaks or other problems.

7 – “High mileage” oil is a crock.  Typically oils marketed this way are simply a blend (usually 50-50) of regular oil and synthetic.  The marketing hype is really just a way to make you feel better: you’re ‘treating’ your older engine to something better.  Although a synthetic oil blend is better than just regular oil, if you really want to do your old engine a favor go to full synthetic.  I suspect this high-mileage game is really about human nature and our tendency to purchase the middle option: Regular oil (cheap), High Mileage (mid price), Full Synthetic (highest price).  Don’t fall for this game.

8 – Better oil is better.  (sounds about right) Engine oil is not a place to economize.  Buy the best – my favorites include: Mobil 1, Valvoline, and Castrol.  Your savings are actually very significant: you will prolong your engine’s life which saves significantly more than a few dollars saved on cheaper oil.

8 – Application is critical.  Critical. We have a rule in our shop:  we check the application of every fluid we use every time.  As vehicle technology has advanced engines have become fussier about the oil they need.  We advise you follow our rule: check to be sure the oil you use is approved for your engine.  Frequently people forget: your vehicle owner’s manual usually has good engine oil recommendations.

9 – Engine oil is political.  It’s true and nowhere is it worse than with new cars.  Manufactures want you to buy shiny new cars. To make them attractive, amongst other factors, the vehicle’s first few years of maintenance costs are a big deal.  Consumer guides / advocates focus heavily on this. So, to appease this condition, vehicle manufactures extend oil change intervals beyond what we would recommend.  This is perhaps a little harsh but we put it this way: the manufacturer cares about the first three years of your vehicle’s life; we care about the last three. There are a lot of factors to consider but the bottom line is this:  your oil change interval should be suited to you. Our shop management system can set custom schedules for all of our clients to better match your needs.

10 – Capacity counts.  Engines with greater oil capacity are (understandably) more expense to perform oil services on.  These engines are better protected by this larger capacity and often can go further between services.  Larger capacity systems can tolerate more heat or more contaminants. When first faced with the cost of an oil change on a large-capacity system it is human-nature to compare it to smaller systems and wonder why you now have to suffer this greater expense.  Diesel pickup trucks, for example, usually have 3-4 times the oil capacity of a small 4-cylinder vehicle. Some of this additional cost has to be simply understood as the price of admission for the added benefits of your engine (your diesel pickup is going to tow things your 4-cylinder vehicle will not) but usually the larger capacity allows your longer oil service interval and if you did the math the cost per mile per quart of oil isn’t as diverse as you would think.

11 – Performance Engines use Performance Oils.  (also sounds about right). The higher performance the engine the more it relies on oil to protect it.  People sometimes forget that their engine is not that far removed from an engine built for the race-track and thus it needs the same care and feeding that the race-track engine needs.  My favorite example are M-spec cars from BMW. Driving these cars is exhilarating, to be sure, but this perform has a cost especially in engine oiling demands. If you have a high-performance vehicle it is MORE important to not neglect its oil.

12 – you need to check your oil level regularly.  Expecting your dashboard warning system to tell you about a problem is dangerous.  Some vehicle manufactures have oil LEVEL sensors that help warn you ahead of time (BMWs do this well) but others do not.  MINIs concern me: I’ve seen MINI engines get dangerously low on oil without the driver knowing it. This causes expensive damage and I’ve replaced MINI engines due to this problem.  MOST dashboard oil warning lights are oil pressure warning system not oil level warnings. Critically low oil will eventually impact oil pressure enough to switch this light on but at this point your engine has already suffered significant internal wear.

13 – Low oil levels have two main causes:  Oil leaks, obviously are one common cause of low oil conditions.  People can sometimes assume, incorrectly, that not seeing oil under their vehicle means their oil level is fine.  Oil unfortunately is also burned in an engine, and can have its level reduced significantly this way too. The only way to know is to follow #12 – check your level regularly.  Note ‘normal’ oil consumption in an engine a hot and controversial topic in our industry. All engines burn oil but it is a CHANGE in the consumption rate that is cause for concern.  Don’t panic though: crankcase ventilation system failures are the more common (and less expensive) cause of these changes and are typically easy to fix. The less common, and more expensive cause, is internal engine wear.  People often assume the worst case and attribute increased oil consumption to impending engine failure – don’t fall into this trap.

This is a classic “do as I say, not as a I do” topic.  Engine oil really is critical and there is understandable ignorance and misinformation out there.  Our business philosophy is to be your advocate so for our clients we simply take ownership of this responsibility and have a great reminder system to ensure our clients don’t forget their oil services.  Once in we check before and after conditions of the engine oil and make changes in recommended fluids or schedules as needed. This protects our clients’ investments – following the above advice can do likewise for you.

Let a professional change my oil?

Why should I let a professional change my oil?

The cost of simple mistakes in an oil change service with a European vehicle can be very high: oil level, oil type, oil viscosity, oil filter type, oil fill procedure, oil change reset procedure, etc, etc can all trip up the well intended but uninformed quick-lube tech or home mechanic. However the best reason to have us do your oil change is our Integrity Inspection we perform during this service visit. Hopefully the inspection reveals all is well with your vehicle but whatever it reveals the value of this information is worth the small costs in time or money that our oil change service creates.

Follow Factory Oil Change Intervals?

follow factory oil change intervals?

We view factory oil change and other maintenance recommendations as minimal requirements. These factory guidelines are written to promote new vehicle sales. We are not bound by franchise obligations to toe the company line on maintenance and instead will create a custom plan for your vehicle that we feel will best preserve its value – it’s a big part of being your advocate. Usually this results in a shortened oil change interval recommendation from us.

Wait to perform needed services?

Wait to perform needed services?

Like in medicine, correcting problems early makes them significantly less costly, less inconvenient, and avoids having them cascade into bigger problems. I have a sad story from years ago of a client who neglected the simple replacement of an engine drive belt (despite repeated reminders) – when the belt finally failed the chain reaction culminated in a complete engine failure. We make it our duty to help you avoid such unnecessary expense.

Warning signs when driving a Euro vehicle

warning signs when driving a Euro vehicle?

We liken European vehicle ownership to owning a race horse (while domestic or other import vehicles are more like pack-horses). A race horse is, by nature, more spirited and fun but much fussier about its care and feeding. Frankly anything abnormal should be noted. Like in medicine, early detection is key to making correction easy. Please call if you experience: leaks, new dashboard warnings, overheating conditions, new noises, or any performance decrease. Ultimately please be safe and call – we can help.

What to do when you have fluid under your car

What to do about fluid under your car

Fluid leaks (with the exception of water condensation from your a/c system) are abnormal and a sign that something is wrong. This leak can even represent a safety problem if the fluid is brake fluid. It is best to consult with us about any leaks and let us help guide you on its correction. Often a trip to the shop will be necessary.

Advanced Engine Diagnostics

Bentley_KeyThe Problem

It is a sad reality of our industry that the understanding of internal combustion engines and their governing principles is becoming a lost art with today’s automotive technicians.


As a kid in the 1970s I enjoyed learning engine basics in school.  Remember? Four strokes: Intake, Compression, Power, Exhaust. We also covered two-strokes engines, rotary engines, carburetors, ignition systems, etc.  Somewhere I still have my old textbook and I can remember the large color-pictures of spark plugs showing spark plug conditions as a means of basic engine diagnostics.  Black plugs?: running rich. White ash-like deposits?: running lean.

In the defense of today’s automotive technicians:  to say engines technology, by the 1970s, was primitive compared to today’s engines is a gross understatement.

In the 1970s you needed three things for an engine to run:  compression, fuel and ignition. The tool of the day, ignition analyzers in huge rolling cabinets, would give a professional technician an ignition spark pattern on an oscilloscope screen (CRT or cathode ray tube display).   This spark pattern could be captured in minutes and interpretation of the spark pattern on the CRT gave the tech comprehensive insights into the combustion chamber behaviors while the engine was running. It was a pretty simple and very powerful system of determining what was wrong with an engine.  Within minutes a rough-running engine’s ailment was typically pinpointed.

This worked well for one reason:  fuel and ignition systems ran pretty independently of engines.  With carburetors fuel delivery was proportional to engine air intake.  Some engines had crude input systems to adjust carburetor behavior based on engine temperature or engine load but, on the whole, carburetors had little ‘knowledge’ of the engine’s running condition and performance.  So too of ignition systems – high voltage ignition spark signals were sent to each spark plug with little to no knowledge of engine running condition.


So what changed?  Everything.

Today’s engine produces significantly more power from the same amount of fuel, it starts and runs much better, produces much cleaner exhaust, while also enjoying large advances in weight reduction, production cost reduction, etc, etc.

These advances are largely credited to advances in the field of “Engine Management” – a term that really didn’t exist in the 1970s.

Engine Management, thanks to computers, creates a much more dynamic relationship between combustion chamber conditions and both ignition and fuel system responses.  Net effect: ignition spark analysis cannot be relied upon solely to provide answers to engine performance problems.

The good news is engine management systems, being computer systems, can provide insights into what is wrong with an engine by allowing technicians to see the data the computer management system can see.

Bad news:  the complexity of problems is multiplied by the potential for bad data AND the computer’s response to it.  EG: Do we have a lean running engine because the computer system thinks (incorrectly) that it should be commanding a lean condition?  Is the lean condition a condition that the computer system knows exists but cannot correct? Is the computer trying to command a change that the mechanical components cannot suffice?

Worse news:  today’s engine’s impressive performance require more precise engine management so something like, say a slightly lean running condition, might have been unnoticed in a 1970’s engine performance can create very noticeable performance problems in today’s engine AND can cascade into other problems / collateral damage.

This relationship between the engine management system and the engine has also caused a dysfunctionality amongst today’s technician.  He/she typically reaches for a computer diagnostic scanner, reads codes, and starts to analyze the problem. With any luck the problem can be reproduced, data in the computer management system will respond to the problem, and allow the technician to determine the root-cause.  This process, although somewhat time-consuming, often works well.

The problem is:  this is such a common approach that the technician tends to forget that underneath the engine management system there is a basic four-stroke engine that obeys the basic laws it did back in the 1970s including the basic need for three things:  compression, ignition, and fuel.

When the basics of an engine’s mechanical condition is compromised no amount of engine management based repairs will correct it.  Worse – engine management repairs can help manage symptoms of the mechanical problem and deceive the technician into thinking he/she is on the right path to fixing the root-cause.

Rover Advanced Diagnostics

The Solution:


So – to get around this today’s technician needs to remember the 1970s and diagnose base mechanical conditions of an engine while understanding and compensating for how engine management systems will undermine or skew the results.

How is this done?  When we interview technicians to potentially hire them we explore their knowledge of these basics:  Engine exhaust analysis / ignition scope analysis / engine vacuum characteristics / compression analysis…

The enlightening part, we have found, is the technician’s knowledge of the appropriate tools:

  • 5-Gas Exhaust Analyzer
  • Ignition Scope
  • Vacuum Gauge
  • Cylinder leak-down tester and Compression gauge
  • Dynamic compression / pressure transducer tester and software

These aren’t everyday tools and range drasticly in price, but we have found that technicians that understand and employ them appropriately are the same technicians that can fix those difficult problems that frustrate other technicians and motorists alike.

Which, in turn, provides the consumer with the same.  Although not always the right path, advanced engine diagnostics, ironically, have solutions often found in the basics and an interview with a shop on their capabilities with the basics will let the client know if the shop can indeed solve the tough problems.

If you’re faced with a difficult Engine Diagnostic problem consider – does your technician have the above tools?  Does he/she know how to use them? These are not everyday tools but at Galloping Gertie’s Garage we have made commitments to this type of tooling far beyond the levels most automotive shops so that we can provide answers to the tough problems.

Washington LocalsBonus Points

If you think these handicaps are limiting for technician’s with today’s cars try solving tricky problems on yesterday’s cars!  Sadly the technician who has never mastered these technologies can only poke in the dark at problems with vehicles that do not have an engine management system to help guide him/her.  If you own an old car and need help with engine performance and diagnostics most shops won’t be equipped to help unless you find one with the same commitment to this technology as our shop.

Mechanical conditions dominated old car performance – I suspect that’s why we called their technicians “Mechanics”.  Unfortunately the art of mechanic is being lost in today’s automotive technician.

Land Rover Service

evoque service gig harbor
Range Rover Service
Range Rover Evoque Repair
All eras of Land Rover Serviced here
Land Rover Discovery Service
Discovery Rover Repair
rover repair center gig harbor

Range Rover KeyI can remember, as a little boy living in England, getting to ride in a family friend’s Land Rover – it was a bright blue Series II with the sideways jump seats in the back.  I was fascinated by the rugged / military-nature of this Rover and its utilitarian design focused on what Rovers do best: rove the land.

Land Rover has evolved.  Significant technologies have been added to meet today’s needs but take a Rover out for a spin and that basic / raw thrill of traversing the terrain in all kinds of conditions remains.  Cheers to Land Rover for preserving this for us to still enjoy today.

Like Rover technology my relationship with Land Rover also evolved and I bring to Galloping Gertie’s a strong Rover resume from 15 years of running Utah’s favorite independent Rover shop.

Land Rover service requires a love for the work that starts with a love of the brand; your Land Rover will be well-loved at Galloping Gertie’s Garage.

We are all tooled-up and experienced to provide this service.  Highlights include:

  • Standardized Maintenance
    • although less dramatic than other services, maintenance is emphasised in our business for exactly that reason:  we prefer our clients and their vehicles have as few exceptions as possible. Vehicle maintenance is a lot like medicine:  the sooner a potential issue is addressed the easier it is to solve. We always recommend the preventative approach.
    • Our service experience always starts with our (no-charge) Integrity Inspection to give us a good baseline of your Land Rover’s condition before we start service.
    • We recommend maintenance from a combination of:  the vehicle’s current condition, our experiences with the vehicle’s technologies, our interview with our client on his/her needs, the factory recommendations,
    • We track your maintenance for you and build a file in our database of both the service history AND the inspection history of your Rover – our IT system is uniquely ours and builds us a great ‘Medical Record’ that gives us insights into your vehicle’s needs.  Like a good, organized, and wise family doctor we can make smarter recommendations geared to your needs.
    • We make it our job to remind you of your next service and will manage this scheduling reservation for you.
    • We have an expression “Every Fluid, Every Time” – meaning we check the application of every fluid to ensure it is compatible with your Rover.  We stock a wide variety of these fluids and don’t take the shortcuts many lube places take by using ‘universal’ fluids.
    • We are not a franchise:  as such we are allowed to think for ourselves.  Dealerships put their brand-name and reputation first and are tied to the franchises’ rules; this can create recommendations that don’t put the client’s needs first.
  • Modern Land Rover technologies
    • Special fluids and service procedures are critical for correct transmission services on modern Land Rover ZF transmissions.  These transmissions are well-built and reliable but are sensitive to their services, fluid types, etc. We are all tooled-up for and very familiar with this important service.
    • Advanced off-road capabilities in conjunction with refined on-road handling has lead Land Rover to develop some of the most advanced suspension systems employed on modern automobiles.  The mechanical components often need attention: Control arms; control arm bushings; steering tie rods and linkage; etc are all areas we regularly service.
    • Air suspension is also a critical service area for Land Rovers.  We have updated air components (struts, suspension pumps, etc) to improve system reliability.  We can perform the latest software updates to reprogram Terrain modules for LR3s, LR4s, Range Rover Sports, etc.  Although not well understood outside of Rover-specialist circles these software updates are critical and not available at most auto repair shops.
    • Direct Injection is now a commonly used fueling strategy on new Land Rovers; this allows Rovers to get more power along with lower emissions and better fuel economy – an all around ‘win’.  To keep this system in top condition your Rover needs a service center that understands the carbon build-up problems inherent to Direct Injection (DI) systems. Regular engine oil conditioning treatments, decarbonization cleaning, injector cleaning, and intake media-blasting (cleaning) services will all ensure your Rover can continue to enjoy the benefits of DI free from expensive DI-related repairs.
    • Range Rovers, especially super-charged models, depend on oversized brakes to keep all that power and weight under control.  To continue to enjoy your Rover’s performance its brakes must be kept to factory or better specifications. We stock a broad array of premium brakes for your Range Rover including Textar, Brembo, Pagid, etc.  Even with premium replacement parts disciplined attention to hub run-out, moving part lubrication, and sometimes on-car rotor-to-hub machine matching with specialized lathes is necessary. We offer all of these services and more to ensure happy, healthy brakes on your Land Rover.
    • Land rover tire pressure monitoring systems can be a real challenge and headache for tire shops – I recall a client with an LR3 that had his tire shop try to solve an intermittent tire warning light for over a year.  With our tire equipment we can mount and unmount tires to replace the sensors while using the factory diagnostic computer to find out why the system was tripping false errors. This combination allows us to solve Land Rover tire pressure problems that tire shops cannot.
  • Deep experience with classic Rover V8 engines
    • Rover V8 ignition systems with their behind-engine coil packs require special handling when it’s time for ignition or tune-up work
    • Emissions equipment including secondary air pumps and air injection plumbing
    • Engine management repairs to Bosch and GEMS systems
    • Engine computer coding and programming; Discovery and later Defender engine computers vary  based on emissions levels and vehicle configuration – these engine computers have to have the vehicle’s configuration programmed in when computer updates are done.
    • Unfortunately the classic V8 engine design used in Land Rovers is known for oil leaks; the important and often missed part of this issue is the oil leaks can cascade into bigger problems.  Our experience will help you avoid these pattern failures and their unnecessary extra expense.
  • Other Rover Specialities
    • Power steering and Active Cornering Enhancement (ACE) hydraulics and control systems
    • The Land Rover Freelander is a great choice for a smaller SUV with Rover’s off road capabilities but can require specialized knowledge to service correctly.  Water pumps, timing belts, drivetrain fluids, etc all require unique attention.
    • Range Rover Evoque is also a great smaller Rover choice but it still has Rover technologies that can require a specialist including:  turbo chargers, direct fuel injection, suspension, software, etc.
  • Tooling.  Critical to providing world-class service is the need for world-class tooling.  Our Rover toolbox includes technologies such as:
    • Autologic.  Developed in England this diagnostic platform provides deep Rover computer diagnostics, coding and software updates.  When employed correctly Autologic allows independent shops like ours to offer services that dealerships cannot.
    • Equally unavailable in dealerships are our advanced undercarriage services.  Our Beissbarth touchless aligner paired with the Hunter road-force wheel balancer and tire matching can make your Rover ride feel better-than-new.  Don’t waste time at dealerships trying to correct vibrations or harshness in your ride; their systems are antiquated compared to cutting-edge Beissbarth technology.
    • Factory JLR computer diagnostics:  to ensure we minimally have all of the capabilities of the dealership we also have our factory Land Rover diagnostic system.
  • Service.  All of this experience, expertise and tooling means nothing without a service discipline that understands your needs and delights you with exceptional service.  See other pages on our website for a description of this, our true passion. To summarize it we are your service Advocates and take your needs on personally to ensure you receive the best possible service.

BMW Service

BMWBMW, the pride of Bavaria, holds a special place with us.  An important mentor early in my automotive career, Alex Seigel is a true blue Bavarian, a German Meister technician, and a faithful fan of his homeland’s iconic automobiles and motorcycles.  With Alex and his German values, we became early adopters of important BMW services and technologies including: engine performance analysis with 5-gas exhaust analysis and dynamic compression tests, factory software updates, M-motor valve adjustments, important BMW fluids, battery registrations, correct brake service techniques, etc, etc.  


Following my tenure with Alex, I founded Utah’s favorite independent BMW service center.  As a result, I now bring to Galloping Gertie’s Garage a 15 year strong background and love of my old mentor’s favorite automobiles:  BMW.


Galloping Gertie’s offers your BMW these special services – services that go beyond what you will find at authorized franchise BMW service centers:

  • Correct alignments and undercarriage services with the cutting edge (from the Fatherland) Beissbarth tire tread analyzer and touchless alignment system.  This system is just starting to enter the US market and not something BMW dealerships have adopted yet. BMW’s suspension systems are amongst the best in the world and we will help you take maximum advantage of yours with our undercarriage services.
  • Steering and suspension repairs:  to deliver on the ‘ultimate driving machine’ promise BMWs have finicky suspension components.  We are fully tooled up to service these important areas including the advanced areas of Active Steering, Adaptive Suspension, Control Arms, Air Suspension, etc.
  • Software updates, module coding, battery registrations, etc:  We are equipped with BMW’s factory diagnostic equipment and, better, employ the best aftermarket diagnostic platforms for BMW built by Autoland Scienctech and Autologic.  These platforms can perform software analysis, programming, etc beyond factory authorized capabilities employed by dealerships.
  • Maintenance services with premium European fluids and filters from the likes of:  MANN, Bosch, Motul, Redline, Pentosin, Sachs, ZF, etc. Dealerships are required to toe the company line in so many ways – including limiting your choice of maintenance items. We find BMW owners that love their vehicles (like we do) prefer better materials and maintenance standards.  We do consult BMW’s official preferences, but we’re not bound by something inferior – you shouldn’t be either.
  • Our most powerful advantage is not a technical tool or service, but a network I was introduced to by my old mentor:  the BIMRS.ORG network. This exclusive organization (membership requires application and approval) is a world-wide network of BMW technicians with knowledge and skills that surpass the ‘official’ BMW dealership technical network.  Case in point:




To keep it brief:  The president of the Utah (Wasatch) chapter of the BMWCCA was a great source of referrals for our shop as he regularly bragged up our capabilities – this included referring the purchaser of his nice BMW M3 to us.

The M3 visited a couple of times for simpler services, but eventually came in with a check-engine light concern.  The repair path started with a camshaft position sensor, but also unfortunately required a new DME (engine computer) as the old sensor damaged it.  Costs escalated and worse, the vehicle just wouldn’t run correctly. It didn’t like to idle and would regularly stall when coming to a stop and trying to idle.  We spent countless hours diagnosing anything and everything that could impact idle performance: vacuum leak checks, electrical and charging systems, engine basics – air induction, fuel pressure / ignition spark, even valve timing.  No success.

To complicate matters, our new client was losing confidence as was our champion with the BMWCCA.  (Our team wasn’t very happy either). Things came to head when the client suggested perhaps the local BMW dealership would be better capable of solving the problem.

This is a tough position.  I was personally involved in all of the testing and confident in our results.  I knew BMW’s process: they would use their factory diagnostic system which not only reports diagnostic data for a vehicle, but also dictates the repair path to take.  I knew what would happen: they would duplicate all of our repairs (and the owner’s expenses) and still have a misbehaving M3.

Trying to best be my client’s advocate I expressed this concern to him and suggested that we submit the problem to the network.  The client agreed and the following day I received a phone call from an excited BIMRS shop owner (Don Fields – whose shop is aptly named “Mr. M Cars”).  Don lead me through a series of tests and determined that our troublesome M3 had actually been modified with a tuning package that involved some performance parts and, most importantly, an aftermarket software tune in the engine computer.  THIS is why the car wouldn’t idle: the software had inadvertently been reset to ‘stock’ when the DME (engine computer) was replaced. Don pointed us in the direction of the tuner and after getting their magic performed we had a fixed M3 and a happy client!

Had this vehicle instead been taken to the dealership they would have slowly restored the vehicle to its stock condition after repeating the repairs we had already completed.  There were two big modifications: a lightened flywheel and larger fuel injectors. It would have taken huge efforts to figure out both that these were not stock and that they were impacting idle.  In the dealership’s defense they would have likely (eventually) discovered these modifications, returned the vehicle to its stock condition, and thus fixed the idle problem. However the client would have given up a noticeable performance enhancement and undoubtedly ended up with a very large repair bill.

Obviously this was a special case, but it highlights two things I preach:



1 – the BIMRS group is the strongest technical resource for BMWs with capabilities beyond the dealership network.

2 – independent shops have latitude that dealership’s don’t:  we can think outside the box and come up with solutions that are better.  This isn’t always the case. It’s probably not even typically the case, but this can be a powerful difference and a great reason to support your independent BMW specialist.

BMW Repair Experts Gig Harbor
BMW M5 Experts Gig Harbor
BMW Repair
BMW M Repair Experts
BMW Rescue available here
BMW Service Gig Harbor

Mercedes Service

Mercedes KeyArguably the most influential auto manufacturer in the world,  Mercedes-Benz are always a joy to service. Mercedes have many ‘firsts’ in their history including the honor of the first automobile!  Although often considered a rival of its smaller Bavarian brother BMW, here in the US the rivalry is less pronounced and we feel safe having a love for both.

Mercedes’ ‘The Best or Nothing’ moto is one we try to adopt in all aspects of our business.

Among Mercedes-Benz’s innovations are considerable safety innovations. I am often recommending the brand to my more safety-conscious clients who understand that safety can be priceless.

Like many of the premium brands we service, there are lots of little things to know about servicing Mercedes-Benz. Experience with these special requirements can really make the difference between successful service and unintended (sometimes serious) vehicle damage.  Mercedes’ Active Brake Assist, for example, requires the brake system to be put into a service mode using the factory diagnostic computer (STAR Diagnostic system) before any brake disassembly is attempted. Failure to follow this will result in the brakes activating during the service. This will destroy brake components and likely injure the service technician!

Modern Mercedes technologies rely on computer controls and electronics; often we find Mercedes to be the most computerized vehicles in our service bays.  Mercedes’ SAMs (signal acquisition modules) have been part of their technologies since the 1990s and have lead the industry with the paradigm of distributed computing and network technologies in vehicles.  I remember a very frustrated client bringing me a hat full of light bulbs for his Mercedes, exasperated that despite many efforts he could not get his taillights to function correctly. Little did he know that the car, with its rear SAM, was dynamically remapping functions of the bulbs in the tail lamp assemblies to best use the functioning bulbs and compensate for the bad ones.  You could virtually hear the client’s jaw hit the floor when I showed him in my STAR system how I had to activate individual bulbs through the computer network to test them and then clear fault codes to get his taillights back to normal… Welcome to Mercedes-Benz!

Mercedes are truly leading the industry with driving assist and self-driving technologies.  Active Steering Assist, Active Body Control, Active Lane, Distronic, Magic Body Control, etc, are all amazing and likely life-changing technologies.  One of the catches though is that the vehicle’s reliance on the integrity of its suspension has increased dramatically. There is no room for bad suspension components, imprecise alignments, or poorly balanced and mismatched tires.  Mercedes have partnered extensively with Beissbarth to offer the world’s best alignments and we’re proud to be the first independent shop in the US to offer our clients the precision of Beissbarth’s touchless alignment system. Your Mercedes needs our undercarriage services and your local dealership does not offer this level of service yet.

Of course, we have your basics well covered too:  A Service / B Service / Ignition services, belts, tune ups, etc, etc.  If it’s on your Mercedes we are ready to service it.

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Jaguar Service

Jaguar_KeyEngland:  Toast and Jam?  Treacle? Westminster Abbey?  The Beatles? Big Ben? Jaguar.

Not everyone is in love with English culture but everyone agrees that the English are unique.  So too with Coventry’s most famous product: Jaguar cars.

Jaguar deserves a place of distinction in the automotive world.  Amongst other accomplishments, the XKE, Jaguar’s most famous model, is still considered “the most beautiful car ever made”.  

Sir Winston Churchill, defiant to a fault, prevailed against all odds to lead Great Britain to victory in World World II.  Famously stating during the war “we shall never surrender” Churchill lead with his heart and is deservedly revered as one of the world’s greatest leaders.

These two English icons both prevailed in the face of difficult, if not impossible odds, and did so while remaining distinctly British.

Jaguar’s V8 engine, the AJ8 introduced in 1996, in my opinion, saved the brand.  A brilliant V8 design that has survived the years, and is still in use in modern form, in Jaguars, Land Rovers, and Aston Martins.

Jokes can be (and have been) made of some of Jaguar’s historical technologies:  Lucas Electronics and engine management, SU carburetors, positive ground systems, even the days of Ford ownership.  Jaguar enthusiast have remained loyal to the brand and it continues to produce exhilarating sports cars (the impressive XK series and now the F-Type), stately British sedans (XJs), and the acclaimed SUVs in the Pace lineup:  E-Pace, F-Pace, and the all-electric I-Pace. Jaguar’s future is bright, and, even better, still uniquely English.

Tata motors, Jaguar’s parent company, wisely merged the Jaguar and Land Rover brands and they now share technologies and a diagnostic platform:  the JLR SSD.

We are fully tooled up to service your Jaguar. We have extensive experience with the classic inline 6 cylinders, the sometimes accursed older electronics (the Ford years of Jaguar) and of course the modern technologies supported by SSD.

We are pleased to be in the Gig Harbor market and the ideal choice for Jaguar service here.  Call us up and let us take good care of your Jag.

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Audi Service

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Audi Quatrro Service

Audi KeyI used to have a client that literally served during WWII.  He was meticulous about his vehicles, a great story teller, and a good friend.  I miss my visits with him. He was from a different time and I always used to chuckle when he couldn’t remember Audi by name:  “You know, that auto union company” (accompanied by him making little circles with his fingers and joining them to help me visualize the Auto Union and Audi’s logo)….  Of course he was talking about Audi but it was always funny that, to him, it was still an emerging company.

The Audi I know comes from a later time and the glory days of Quattro! Quattro is  Audi’s all-wheel-drive system that dominated in the 1980s. It changed perceptions of what was a sports car and left a permanent mark on the industry.  Today every auto manufacturer is into the all-wheel-drive game, but Audi with its Quattro system is still a leader.

Quattro, incidentally, has its roots in military engineering coming from the VW Iltis – a small military jeep introduced in the 1970s.  From there it grew and really came into its own in the famous UR Quattro, the Audi 4000, and the not-so-famous VW Quantum Syncro. Using three differentials (two with vacuum controlled locks) this Quattro system dominated rally sports and was a bullet-proof drivetrain.

If that wasn’t good enough, during the 1980s and 90s, Audi built spectacular 5-cylinder engines.  These engines could be easily hot-rodded into silly levels of power, and, when coupled with the Quattro drivetrain, created very, very fast cars.

Today’s Audi holds true to the idea of leveraging technology to provide the Audi owner with ‘more for less’.  Turbo charging, although certainly not unique to Audi, has always been a strong point. It fit into Audi’s formula:  getting more from less – or “Truth in Engineering” as their brilliant marketing slogan puts it.

Audi haven’t always been successful with this approach.  They have had some stumbles, especially the “unintended acceleration” of the Audi 5000 (a scandal we’ll have to discuss in person), but on the whole today’s Audi is successful because it has held true to this vision.

Should your Audi need help, we are well versed in their technologies, tooled up with dealer level diagnostic equipment, and here to provide you with service superior to your dealership experience.

My friend John has since passed on and I will forever miss him, but I chuckle inside everytime I service an Audi as I can still see him trying to describe that little ‘auto union’ company.  That’s not today’s Audi but it’s pretty cool to look back to their beginnings and to have known an auto enthusiast who remembers their start.

Oh – and ask me about VW Quantum Syncros sometime…

Undercarriage Services

We repair Gig Harbor's Range Rover, BMW, Mercedes and more!MINI Cooper Experts Gig HarborThe automotive repair industry is undergoing one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) revolution it has ever seen.  Vehicle technology is advancing at a pace never seen before. The future promises big paradigm changes – on the horizon we see potential for:  driverless cars; ownerless cars; gasoline-free cars; etc. The seeds of this technology are here now: lane departure warning systems, automatic emergency braking, drowsy driver awareness, smart headlights, self-parking systems, etc – all available in today’s cars.

Vehicle performance is also at an all-time high – the classic measurement of 0-60mph has had the 3-second ‘impossible’ goal smashed and it’s likely we’ll see the next impossible (2 seconds) broken as well.  Also, thankfully, we’re seeing huge advances in safety, comfort, fuel economy, and even luxury levels.

This crazy brave-new-world of automobiles has many auto service centers wondering about their futures too.  

Here is one of our answers:  Undercarriage Service.

Simply put:  vehicles and their consumers are creating greater demands for undercarriage/chassis performance than ever before.  Suspension design, tire technology, active cruise control systems, ABS and traction control systems are all much more advanced and require an equal step-up in service technology and intelligence.

Tire service, wheel balancing, alignments, suspension service, etc all contribute to the safety and handling of your vehicle and all are important.  The industry has known this for years; what we’re just starting to get our heads around is how much more important these areas are becoming and what we need to do to meet these needs.

The great news is pioneers in this space have discovered a SYNERGISTIC opportunity – where one plus one is certainly greater than two.  Performing these services in a complementary way is creating vehicle handling, safety and ride quality that is decidedly better than the sum-of-the-parts of the single/simple elements.

Like everything technology is leading the way – we are invested heavily in this technology and offer:

Gig Harbor Luxury Vehicle ShopTouchless Alignments.

Tomorrow’s alignment is a Touchless alignment – one that uses cameras and many measurement points to profile a vehicle’s wheel alignment in a comprehensive analysis of how the vehicle rides, turns, handles exceptions, etc.  This creates a much more accurate alignment than the old reflective target setup. (That necessitated the mounting of a reflective target onto the vehicle’s wheels – ‘touching’ the car.)

Repeatability is greatly increased as the inevitable error introduced with the mounting of a wheel-target is eliminated.  The Beissbarth system is constantly self-calibrationing as well creating more accurate results over the old paradigm of setting a machine’s calibration and assuming it is correct (and remains so).

Touchless means wheel damage from alignment machine targets is a thing of the past; this is a big deal for vehicles with expensive / fancier wheels that were (of course) the ones most vulnerable to alignment-target scrapes and damage.

Our Beissbarth Touchless aligner is one of the first in the United States and offers these features in a service no-one else, including your favorite new-car dealership, offers.


Tire Tread Analysis.

Checking tire tread with depth gauges and a visual inspection is a crude tool to soon be part of the automotive dark-ages.

Instead tools like our Beissbarth Easy Tread will create an accurate report of all four tires with an analysis of the entire footprint of each tire.  

Ultimately this will make vehicles safer on the road while also allowing technicians insights into a vehicle’s suspension and alignment.  With this tool we can provide you with a better handling vehicle, a safer vehicle, and a more enjoyable vehicle. Even better this will also create significant cost saving for you by catching abnormal tire wear early – preserving tire life while correcting the root-cause before it cascades into bigger suspension problems; etc.

Road Force Wheel Balancing.

Washington ProudAlso coming into a new age is wheel balancing technology with Hunter Equipment’s Road Force technology leading the way.  Road-force tests a tire balance in a new and important way – it adds a roller that simulates the road (or road-force) during the balancing process.  This will reveal tire abnormalities that other tire balancing technologies cannot.

This isn’t just about identifying a ‘bad tire’:  Hunter’s engineers take wheel characteristics into account and the Road Force software can define best-balance results by changing the position of the tire on the wheel (informally called ‘clocking’) to have the imperfections in the tire cancel imperfections in the wheel to create a best-balanced assembly.

If that weren’t enough Hunter’s software takes this best positioning idea a step further and will suggest changing wheel positions on the vehicle to get the best results.

The new age of vehicle technology is upon us!  Undercarriage service is going to become more and more important.  Cars are going faster, consumer demands are greater, automotive automation systems are here to stay – all are creating increased demands on your car’s agility and precision on the road.  To meet this demand your automotive technician needs tools that were not available in the recent past.

I’ve serviced a few DeLoreans in my past (two actually).  They were fun but Hollywood and Back To The Future are wrong:  we do not have flying cars in 2015, 2016 or even 2018. 2030 isn’t looking very promising either.  Until our vehicles change that paradigm the Undercarriage Services offered by Galloping Gertie’s Garage will be your best way to safely stay on the road.

For the record:  time travel doesn’t appear possible by hitting 88 mph in a DeLorean either.