Winter Driving Quiz

Here are a few things we like to talk about with clients when winter driving conditions are in full swing here in Edmonton. How many can you get right?

How to Buy a Used Car or Truck in Alberta

One of the more common questions I get asked is about buying used vehicles. If you’re currently planning on buying a used car in Alberta, the last thing you want to do is rush your decision. Making a hasty, uninformed decision can lead to a wide variety of issues down the line. That’s why I’ve put together this procedure for buying a used car in Alberta. Use the procedures and do it like a pro!

Choose a Car, SUV or Truck That’s Right for You

  1. Decide on Your Budget. Naturally, one of the main considerations when you’re buying a car, new or used, is cost. And although it’s fun and exciting to start car shopping, financial experts advise that you decide on a budget first. A rule of thumb is that all your vehicle expenses should not exceed 10-15% of your take-home income
  2. Consider Your Lifestyle. Buying a used cars in Alberta could be your first big deal, it’s important to think carefully about what type of vehicle is best for you. Do you need a compact car that gets great mileage? A pickup truck or SUV for hauling sports gear, musical instruments, or lumber around town? Or just a reliable sedan to get you to and from work, your friends’ houses, and the shopping mall?
  3. Think About What You Really Need. Now, turn your attention to the bells and whistles. If you can live without amenities like a rear camera, Bluetooth connectivity, a USB port, voice commands, or dual-zone automatic climate control, then you’ll be able to shave quite a bit of money off your investment.
  4. Check out a list of amenities and ask yourself which ones you really need, and which aren’t as necessary.

Your Choices to Purchase the Vehicle From

You can buy a used car from a dealership, private seller, friends or family, or online broker in Alberta. The provider you go with does NOT affect the process you need to follow to carry out your purchase.

  1. Dealer. You’ll usually pay more if you shop with a dealer because there’s less risk involved, and it can be more convenient.
  2. Private seller. You may pay less with a private seller, but it can take more time to compare cars and there’s a higher chance that you’ll end up with a lemon.
  3. Broker. You can easily compare prices with an online broker, but it may be more difficult to know if you’re shopping with a legitimate seller when you settle on a price.
  4. Friend or family. Same rules apply as above

Check the Vehicle History

Vehicle history. An automotive business operator must disclose vehicle history in writing to the consumer before purchase. This includes answers to the following:

  1. Was the vehicle ever bought back by the manufacturer?
  2. Was the vehicle ever damaged by fire?
  3. Was the vehicle ever damaged by flooding?
  4. Was the vehicle ever used as a police or emergency vehicle?
  5. Was the vehicle ever used as a taxi or limo?
  6. Was the vehicle ever owned by a vehicle rental business or used as a rental vehicle?
  7. Was the vehicle ever declared a salvage vehicle in Alberta, or the equivalent under another jurisdiction?
  8. Was the vehicle ever declared a non-repairable vehicle in Alberta, or the equivalent under another jurisdiction?
  9. Was the vehicle ever declared an unsafe vehicle in Alberta, or the equivalent under another jurisdiction?
  10. Was the vehicle ever in need of repairs that cost more than $3,000 including parts and labour due to an incident or collision? If yes, the total cost to complete the repairs.
  11. Was the vehicle previously registered in a different jurisdiction immediately prior to the business operator acquiring it? If yes, name the province/country.
  12. If the vehicle was registered in another jurisdiction immediately prior to the business operator acquiring it, was it required to be inspected prior to being registered in Alberta? If yes, did the vehicle pass or fail any inspections?

Questions You Can Ask The Seller of a Vehicle Before Viewing It

When you contact the seller, here are a few things you can ask.

  1. Ask for history repairs and maintenance done to the vehicle. Does the owner have any invoices? 
  2. Ask if the vehicle was involved in any collisions.
  3. Ask how long they owned the vehicle.

Take precautions to protect yourself. Research the process and potential risks of buying used vehicles.

  1. Check reliable resources, such as the Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council (AMVIC) for information about purchasing used vehicles in AlbertaAblerta.
  2. Make sure the seller has valid ID and proof that they own the vehicle.
  3. Contact a registry agent or AMA to get a vehicle information report, which describes the vehicle’s registration history in Alberta. Get a personal property lien search from a registry agent, based on the vehicle’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). A Carfax vehicle history report is also recommended.
  4. Liens. A lien on a vehicle is when a creditor lends money to a debtor taking the vehicle as security. This means that if the debtor defaults on the loan payments, the creditor has a right to repossess the vehicle and sell it to recover the money owed. It is best practice for an automotive business selling a vehicle to pay out any liens prior to a consumer purchasing it, however it is always worth checking on the lien status before purchasing a vehicle. AMVIC-licensed businesses must pay out all liens on a vehicle within seven days after it is sold to a consumer.

What to Look for When Taking the Vehicle on a Road Test

Next you want to try to car out to see what it’s like to drive. Here are some things to look for.

  1. Take notes of any warning lights staying on.
  2. Take notes of any abnormal noises on a cold start-up and when hot at higher speeds 
  3. Abnormal smoke from the exhaust tail pipe.
  4. Inspect the car body for dents, signs of rust, ripples or signs of repainting which might indicate recent bodywork. Another tip I suggest is look at the body lines. Does the hood and fenders have equal spacing? Any of these signs suggest that bodywork has been done and that the vehicle could have been in a collision.
  5. Vehicle interior. Look for damage to the upholstery, trunk, and dash.
  6. Tires. Make sure the tires have tread and are in good condition.
  7. Engine, brakes, and steering function. Check that the engine runs smoothly and the car brakes and turns easily.
  8. Electrical systems. Make sure all the electrical systems are working properly, including lights, power windows, sunroof, heated seats, power locks and more.
  9. Heating/cooling systems. Verify that air conditioning and cooling systems work.
  10. Confirm that miscellaneous parts are in good working order including wipers, gauges, speedometer, odometer, and radio.

Get a Pre-Purchase of Safety Inspection

Get a Pre-Purchase or Safety inspection of the vehicle from a reliable and trusted vehicle inspection facility. ALWAYS. It does not matter who you are buying the vehicle from, everyone has good intentions. But do they really know the current health of the vehicle? 

Fill in the Bill of Sale for the Vehicle

The documents required when buying a used car in Alberta varies between private sellers and dealerships. Buying a used car in Alberta from a private seller. You’ll need a standard bill of sale, which is an original document that certifies the transfer of property. The bill of sale must include:

  1. The buyer’s and seller’s name and address
  2. The vehicle identification number (VIN)
  3. Make, model/series, style, colour, and year
  4. Cost of the car
  5. Signature from the buyer and seller

Saving on Fuel: Myths and Truths

Featured Image for a Vehicle Fuel Consumption Quiz with a scantron sheet and pencil

Most of us have likely heard or read of various tips on ways to save fuel.  While there so many tips that are great, unfortunately some of them are complete lies. Here is a quiz to test your knowledge.

2022 Access Automotive Spring Quiz

Test your car knowledge! If you submit your answers with your email before June 1st, 2022, we will enter you in a draw for a $25 gift certificate to Access Automotive – no need for a perfect score. My explanation for each answer will appear after you select a response for each question. Good luck!

How To Check Your Vehicle’s Oil Level the Right Way

My heart sinks anytime I check the oil in a client vehicle and the engine oil dipstick is bone dry. Checking your oil is easy to do and it can save you thousands of dollars in repair costs. Here’s how I do it.


Rob Music showing off his oil checking abilities

Do You Feel Lucky?

Car batteries are the strong, silent member of the automotive team. They do their job regardless of heat, cold weather and the drivers who demand so much of them. While a battery that allows a car to start at the first turn of the key is a joyful thing, it doesn’t last forever.

In fact, depending on where you live and how you drive, the condition of your charging system, and a number of other factors, a battery lasts about five years on average. And when it does give out, there’s generally no sign of trouble — your car just dies.

While the lead-acid car battery hasn’t changed much in the last 100 years, it’s still a difficult part of the car to check during routine maintenance. Simple battery testers can’t, at this time, muddle through the chemical complexity of what goes on in a battery. Instead, they provide a sort of snapshot of the battery at the time it’s being tested — without the context of the battery’s chemical composition before or after the test.

So, the rule of thumb is simple for battery replacement: You have approximately five years before the battery will theoretically begin its slide from chemical powerhouse to a chemical paperweight. At the five-year mark, we will start testing, and possibly detect a problem, before it’s too late.

But due to the nature of the chemical cocktail inside any battery, it may give out before the five-year mark, or maybe it will last for several more years. So, you have to ask yourself, “Do you feel lucky?”

What is Examined During a Brake Inspection

We always do a visual inspection on your brakes during routine maintenance tasks such as changing tires or changing oil. This will let you know whether there is sufficient brake pad remaining left to safely operate your vehicle or if anything is obviously visually wrong with your brake system.

Sometimes though, there are reasons to suspect that there might be something amiss with the brakes because of one of the following abnormal observations during use:

  • Vibrations of the car or through the steering wheel during braking
  • Warning lights such as the Brake Light, ABS lights or traction control warnings
  • Unusual sounds during braking

If your vehicle is exhibiting any of those symptoms, we recommend a more thorough diagnostic brake inspection. These inspections are inexpensive (generally in the $80-$90 range at our shop), and will give you a much better idea of any safety concerns for your vehicle, and also give your more information about how expensive any repairs might be. This will allow you to make an informed decision about whether it is more cost-effective to repair or if it’s time to start to consider replacing your vehicle.

Have you ever wondered what a brake inspection involves? Here is what we do at our shop.

Diagnostic Brake Inspections at Access Automotive

  1. Test Drive (Road Test)

Before we even begin inspecting your brakes, we want to make sure that they’re working properly and safely by doing a road test. driving them around for about 10 minutes or so. This lets the service technician confirm any reported symptoms, both under initial starting conditions when the rotors are cold, and also when the rotors have warmed up after use. 

F1 brake rotors heating up under testing

The technician  will look for any brake warning lights illuminating and will listen for any unusual noises coming from your vehicle’s brake when you press down on the brake pedal. We also confirm any warning lights related to the braking system.

2. Brake Fluid inspection Check

Brake Fluid Reservoir

After returning to the shop, we inspect the brake fluid, both for level and condition. Although there are several different tests you can do on the brake fluid (copper assay, moisture test, conductivity tests), we find them to be inconclusive and wasteful. Our process is to look at the Master Cylinder for leaks and check the colour of the fluid against our samples on a drip tray.

We then put the car on a hoist for better access to the wheels and brake components. The technician will then inspect each wheel brake caliper  individually for leaks. If there are no issues found during this step, we move onto the next part of the process.

3. Initial Visual Inspection

As we remove the wheels, although this may not directly affect the brakes, we inspect the wheel bearings, hub and lug nut holes for excessive wear or movement.

Next up, we visually inspect each component in order to determine whether there are any signs of wear or damage. 90% of the vehicles we work with have disc brakes, and the rest of this article will refer to a disc brake inspection. During the inspection we look at:

  1. Brakes pad wear:  We are looking for at least 2 to 3 mm material remaining  in the brake pad for them to be considered safe, but additionally we are looking for uneven wear of the brake pads which might indicate seized callipers  or some other mechanical issue with the brake assembly.
  2. Callipers: We are looking for proper piston function (smooth operation of the brake caliper pistons and sliding pins).
  3. Rotors: Primarily we are examining the rotors for abnormal marks (burn marks or corrosion). We also sometimes measure runout (how warped they are) if we think it’s close to a 0.004 inch deviation (maximum deviation before we find that problems start to occur), but in obvious cases of rotor warping we would skip an exact measurement to save you the diagnostic fee.
  4. Look for cracked rubber brake hoses (long term could use a video)
  5. Undercarriage inspection

Finally, we raise the vehicle higher  to inspect  all the steel brake lines from the Master Cylinder to the rear of the vehicle for leaks and corrosion.

Sometimes the inspection turns out to be a easy repair.   small rock can wedge between the rotor and the caliper in the brakes which does not cost any more than the inspection to fix.

Sometimes though we find that the callipers are seized up, the rotors are warped and the brake pads are unevenly worn and replacement of the full assembly is warranted for safe operation. In that case we can help you to decide whether you’re better off replacing the brakes, or if the overall condition of the vehicle warrants moving on to another vehicle.

Summer Vehicle Maintenance Tips

Summer Car Maintenance Recommended for Edmonton

Now that COVID restrictions are being removed, lots of people are looking to hit the road again. Want to make your summer driving experience hassle free? Here are some suggestions:

Get a vehicle inspection done. 

There isn’t one part of the vehicle that is not equally important for summer time as in other seasons. Brakes, battery, engine, cooling system, all ride control components etc. need to be operating as designed.

The best way to maximize your chances of your vehicle making your summer trips hassle free is to do a vehicle inspection ahead of time. We recommend at least two weeks in advance of your trip in case you find some unexpected repairs that need to be performed.

Pay attention to your vehicle’s Air Conditioning

Beat the heat by ensuring your vehicle’s Air Conditioning (A/C) system is working at peak efficiency, especially if you have black leather seats! While A/C systems are built to not leak, they aren’t leak-proof. Here are some of the warning signs of trouble:

  1. The system isn’t cooling to the desired temperatures
  2. The system makes loud or unusual noises when turned on
  3. There are unusual odours coming from the vents
  4. Water appears on the floor mats
  5. The vehicle overheats, stalls or idles roughly when the system is turned on
  6. The blower doesn’t work when the a/c is turned on
  7. The defroster doesn’t work.

If you encounter any of these symptoms bring your vehicle in for an a/c system inspection and analysis.

Complete deferred maintenance items

Be sure to take care of general maintenance items for carefree summer motoring. An example would be the Cabin Filter. Do you really want to have smelly or no air coming from your vents on a long road trip? Just change it before it causes more potential problems. If your oil is due for a change, then getting it done before hitting the road is also highly recommended.

Check on the items you have in your car for convenience, safety and emergencies in the summer

Summer means time to make some changes. Bust out the t-shirts and shorts and enjoy the sun. You should also do a check of what you bring along with you in the car – no need for that snowbrush! Here are the essentials you should keep inside your car during the hot summer months.

  1. Water
  2. Sunglasses
  3. Phone Charger
  4. First Aid Kit
  5. Jumper Cables
  6. Snacks
  7. Flashlight
  8. Emergency Money
  9. Multi-tool Device / Swiss Army Knife
  10. Tow Rope

You may never have an emergency, but in the event that something happens, you will be prepared.