Benefits of Using an Independent Repair Shop Over a Dealership

This is a guest post by Ron Haugen who is the owner of Westside Auto Pro’s in Des Moines IA.  Named “Best Place for Auto Repair” in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 & 2014 by the Des Moines Business Record.

You just barely bought your car and it’s already time to think about whether to be loyal to the dealership for your ongoing maintenance and care, or to find a reputable independent repair shop to provide all of your automotive repair and maintenance needs. There are many advantages and disadvantages of either option. However, your local repair shop may just win your heart, and your business.
For starters, they have a depth of knowledge surrounding all types of vehicles and vehicle maintenance or repair situations, not just the particular makes and models currently being sold and serviced by your dealer. When you call and say your car is making a funny noise that sounds sort of like a ‘whirring and clicking’ sound, typically an established independent repair shop can hone in quickly on the potential suspect; possibly saving you money on both diagnostic and long-term repair bills.
It’s a hard truth that many dealership garages are staffed by younger, less experienced mechanics. That’s not meant to be a knock against them. They do have the leverage of the dealership behind them. But typically an independent repair shop owner has years of auto mechanic repairs under their belt; and to boot they frequently started out at a dealership to get their certifications and experience before branching out on their own to have the American dream and become their own boss.
Your local repair shop probably has the corner on providing its clients with personal, individualized service. They know your spouse’s name, your children’s names and where they go to school, what your dream car is, how long you’ve had your current car, what your last car was, why you sold it, what other cars you own and what your favorite snack is out of the vending machine! Now none of that is necessarily solely a good enough reason to give your business to the local guy, but in today’s fast-paced world there is a slowly simmering trend towards moving back to personalized service with an extra touch.
When you need a little leeway, like the shop staying open a little later so you can get there in time to pick up or drop off your vehicle, your independent shop is more likely to care, and they are also easier to get a hold of a live person. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a technology geek. I love to point and click and buy or research all day long. But when I need to talk to a person, my biggest pet-peeve is getting routed through the dreaded phone menu tree.
When it comes right down to it, whether you take your car to the dealership or to a local independent repair shop for your ongoing maintenance and repair needs is entirely a personal decision. However, one key factor that we haven’t touched on yet is that typically an independent guy is going to cost you less than the dealer. There’s also the added benefit of possibly being able to barter for services, and it’s hard to put a cap on that price savings during the entire life of your car. Look around in your area and see if there are any independent repair shops in the neighborhood. If there are, ask around, look online for reviews, go down there and introduce yourself. You may just find that you and your car are right where you belong.
–Ron Haugen

Volkswagen TDI “Dieselgate” Update

Volkswagen TDI Dieselgate Update

It has been just over a month since we first heard about the EPA’s Notice of Violation to Volkswagen regarding the discrepancies between Volkswagen’s real world emissions levels of NOx and the as tested levels for EPA certification.  As we predicted then, this has turned out to be a pretty big deal in a lot of different ways.  This article is an update on what we know now and what the immediate future looks like for Volkswagen and TDI’s.

As is often the case in these kinds of situations, there has been a lot of misinformation and general mayhem perpetuated by the media and politicians. This has resulted in some panicking by a few TDI owners and certainly some undesirable effects for Volkswagen owners, Volkswagen dealers, and of course Volkswagen itself.  We will attempt to cut through some of the hype and misinformation and break down some of the technical aspects so that you can understand what is really going on.

We will start with some news updates from the US and Europe.  Then we will look at some of the technical information regarding emissions and Volkswagen’s TDI diesel emissions in particular.  Following that we will offer some commentary on class action lawsuits, resale value, and the status of potential recalls and solutions.

News Updates

Some of the biggest news to surface in the last month is that Volkswagen has admitted that over 11,000,000 (Yes 11 Million) of their diesel engines around the world but mostly in Europe, also have similar programming to those manufactured for the US market.  This means that both the financial costs as well as the costs of reputation for Volkswagen are much more significant than we might have anticipated a month ago when we were talking about only ½ million vehicles sold in the US.  Later in this article we will take a look at the differences between US emission standards and European emission standards and how that will affect the actions of Volkswagen.

And as we predicted in the last article, other manufacturers have also come under scrutiny by regulatory agencies.  And it is no surprise to find out that many of them, have employed methods similar to Volkswagen.  In the US, Volkswagen is pretty much the only significant player in the small diesel passenger car market but in Europe almost every manufacturer sells small diesel cars.  When those cars have been tested in real world conditions, they are found to exceed the European emissions standards for NOx.   Interestingly enough, in one Recent European Study Volkswagen cars were actually found to have lower NOx emissions in the real world than almost all of their competition.  But since Volkswagen was “caught” first, they will unfortunately have to bear the brunt of the negative publicity and government action while other manufacturers probably will get little more than a slap on the wrist.

Volkswagen’s response to this whole mess has also been the subject of lots of media interest.  Right off the bat Volkswagen has taken full responsibility.  The CEO of VW launched both an internal investigation and an independent investigation by an outside law firm.  Then the CEO resigned as well as some other top company officials.  VWoA’s CEO has appeared before the media and Congress and promised full disclosure and full cooperation with regulatory agencies.  They have promised to make this right by their customers and dealers.   Time will tell how well they do at all of this, but so far this situation has been a good example of a company doing the right thing when they screw up.  Volkswagen has offered free financing for their dealers for TDI’s that they cannot sell while under the stop sale order and they have offered $2,000 off for any of their existing customers who wish to trade their TDI in on a gas powered model.

Now For Some Technical Information

The media has been using words like “dirty” and “polluting” to describe Volkswagen TDI engines.   But this is actually pretty misleading.  We will take a brief look at emissions in general and TDI or diesel engine emissions in particular.

So just to recap, the emissions component that is in question with the emissions scandal for Volkswagen and diesel engines is NOx or Nitrogen Oxides.  There are couple chemicals in this family – Nitric Oxide (NO), Nitrogen Dioxide (N02), and Nitrous Oxide (N20).  All of these chemicals are naturally occurring in our atmosphere in one form or another.   Somewhere around 60% or more of Nitrogen Oxides are produced naturally.  In nature, they are a result of bacterial processes, biological growth and decay, lightning, and forest and grassland fires. The primary source of man-made nitrogen oxides is from the burning of fossil fuels.  Nitrogen Oxides are not necessarily toxic by themselves but can cause some undesirable compounds such as smog or acid rain when they react with other atmospheric compounds.

Although Volkswagen TDI cars were found to be emitting more NOx in real world driving conditions than the EPA specified quantities, this by itself doesn’t tell the whole story and doesn’t necessarily make them “dirty” or “polluting.  You see there are many other emission compounds besides NOx and most of these other compounds are also regulated by the EPA.  These include, hydrocarbons sometimes referred to as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), Carbon Monoxide (CO), Non Methane Organic Gas (NMOG), Particulate Matter (PM), Formaldehyde (HCHO), and Carbon Dioxide (CO2).  When diesel fuel is burned it produces more NOx than gasoline but it produces fewer VOC’s, NMOG, and much less CO2.

The trade off that Volkswagen and other manufacturers had to make is that in order to reduce NOx you must burn more fuel and create more of other kinds of pollutants.  This is especially a factor when you consider emissions produced in the drilling, refining, and transporting of fuels.  So while TDI engines were emitting more than the allowable NOx, they were emitting far less of other emissions compounds.  And they were much more fuel efficient overall – thereby actually producing fewer total emissions.  So it isn’t like Volkswagen set out to cause more pollution or sell a “dirty” car, it’s just that the logistics of reducing NOx to the level mandated by the EPA make it very difficult to also provide good fuel economy and lower overall emissions while having a reliable vehicle.

In the US the NOx specifications for diesel and gasoline engines are the same.  In Europe they do things a little bit differently.  They understand that diesels have overall less emissions and so they make allowance for more NOx in comparison to gasoline powered vehicles.  The latest European standard is .13 Grams/Mile of NOx for light duty diesels in passenger cars compared to the US standard of .05 Grams/Mile.  This is a much more sensible solution especially when you factor in the benefits of significantly higher fuel mileage from diesel powered cars.  Diesel powered vehicles use about 2/3 -3/4 the amount of fuel that a comparable gasoline engine uses.  This equates to a lot less pollution in the process of drilling, refining, and transporting fuels.

So the bottom line is that Volkswagen TDI’s really aren’t dirty and their pollution levels are actually in many cases better than other vehicles when taking the whole spectrum of emissions into consideration.  Just as an anecdote to illustrate part of this.  We have a 2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI that has 110,000 miles on it.  Over the life of this vehicle so far it has burned about 1,200 gallons less fuel than a gasoline powered Jetta and the tailpipe is so clean inside that you can wipe your finger in it and not get any black on your finger.  I wouldn’t consider that “dirty” or “polluting”.


It is clear that Volkswagen will be required to recall all the 2009-newer TDI vehicles sold in the US and some other countries will probably also require recalls based on their specific emissions standards.   Some people are getting quite impatient because there hasn’t actually been a recall issued yet.   This is a complicated process and will take quite some time, so settle down and be patient.

Here are some of the issues.  Volkswagen manufactured three different designs of TDI engines since 2009.  Each of these designs will require a different solution.  Furthermore, the EPA standards changed in 2011 so the TDI’s made before 2011 may not require the same reduction of emissions as the later ones.  In each of these cases, Volkswagen must engineer a solution which reduces the NOx emissions to an acceptable level, then they must test this solution to make sure that it is going to work over the long haul and they must try to discover what the unintended consequences of making such a change might be.  After Volkswagen is satisfied, they will present this solution to the EPA for approval.  The EPA will want to run their own tests to verify that the solution does indeed meet the standard.  The EPA certainly will not just take Volkswagen’s word for it this time and they will probably not get in any hurry to get these tests done.   The last time it took them 6 months to verify the changes that Volkswagen made.

So don’t look for any recalls anytime soon.  Our best guess is that the recalls will start rolling out sometime after the first of the year.  They will probably start with the latest generation of TDI’s installed in 2015-2016 vehicles because those will be the easiest to bring into compliance and there is a lot of incentive to get those vehicles certified so Volkswagen can start selling new TDI’s again.  It might be another 6 months or more before we have recalls for some of the older TDI’s.

What Might Possible Solutions Be?

Starting with the newest TDI’s it should be fairly easy to bring them into compliance.  The CEO of VWoA has indicated that these cars will most likely only need a software update.   These new generations of diesels starting with the 2012 Passat TDI and then all 2015-newer TDI’s have a Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) injection system also called a Selective Catalyst Regeneration (SCR) which injects a urea/ammonia mixture into the exhaust system.  The urea mixture reacts with NOx to form plain nitrogen and water – neither of which are pollutants.  In order for these cars to be compliant there may need to be a greater dosage of DEF which will require filling the vehicles DEF tank more often.  This will probably not affect fuel mileage or performance.  DEF is not very expensive ($2.50/gallon) and currently TDI’s use less than 1 gallon/thousand miles so an increase usage will not be very costly for TDI owners.

For the older generation TDI’s the solution may require more than just a software update.  Volkswagen has indicated that they expect to need to do some hardware changes as well.   The most likely and cost effective scenario would be  to retrofit an SCR system into these cars.  To do that would require the addition of a tank, tank heater, pump, injector and lines, control module, and sensors.  This would also need to be integrated with and wired into the engine computer which may or may not need to be replaced depending on its built in capabilities for expansion.  These components would certainly cost a substantial amount and Volkswagen would need to pay dealer technicians for quite a few hours of labor to install them.  But this is probably better than the alternatives because it would allow the cars to potentially be more efficient and reliable while retaining full power and performance levels.   If they were to try to reduce NOx emissions using only existing equipment on the car it would probably reduce fuel mileage, performance, and long term reliability significantly.  In that case they would potentially need to reimburse TDI owners for the reduced performance and fuel mileage as well as pay for more repairs to the emission system.  If they add an SCR system, I would hope they might give TDI owner’s some coupons for free DEF.


Many class action lawsuits are already in the works threatening Volkswagen with legal damages for loss of vehicle performance, fuel mileage, reliability, and resale value.  In fact the ink was hardly dry on the EPA notice of violation one month ago when the lawyers sprang into action.  Volkswagen TDI owners are being bombarded by legal firms asking them to join in class action lawsuits.    Now unless you are a lawyer yourself or really like lawyers, you would be advised to stay away from these class action lawsuits.   In a class action lawsuit the only people that really benefit are the lawyers. When it is all said and done you might get a coupon for a free oil change or $500 towards the purchase of a new car but the lawyers will get millions of dollars and Volkswagen will lose millions.  So please – don’t get caught up in all that mess.  Let the dust settle and when everything gets sorted out Volkswagen will probably do the right thing by you.  These lawsuits will wind their way through the court systems for months and years and eat up huge quantities of money.  Nobody wins but the lawyers.

Resale Value

One of the concerns that TDI owners have is resale value.  Will my TDI be worth anything if I want to trade or sell it?  Some TDI owners are already panicking and rushing for the exits – trying to sell or trade their cars.  And they report that Volkswagen dealers or other dealerships won’t give them much of anything on trade or won’t even take their trade at all.  This has led some people to believe that resale value really has plummeted.  The reality is somewhat different. Volkswagen dealers cannot sell any new or late model TDI vehicles.  So they certainly they don’t want to trade any of these cars in because they can’t sell them. But other dealers can sell them and other dealers are still buying these cars.  In fact wholesale auction prices for used TDI’s has held fairly steady over the last month.   There are still people buying these cars.  Once Volkswagen issues a proposed solution and the uncertainty of all of that blows over I predict a sharp increase in resale values.  It will be many months before Volkswagen will be allowed to sell diesel cars and that will drive up the demand for used ones.  If you want to buy one the best time is right now and that window is probably closing pretty fast.

Contact us at Mountain Valley Motors if you want us to find you a clean, well maintained TDI.

Drive More, Worry Less !

Volkswagen and EPA Notice of Violation for 2009-2015 TDI Vehicles: Commentary and Analysis

At Mountain Valley Motors we specialize in Volkswagen and particularly Volkswagen TDI diesel powered vehicles. So it is with special interest that we have taken notice of the recent news and developments regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) notice of violation (NOV) to Volkswagen of America (VWoA) regarding the emissions performance of 2009-2015 TDI vehicles.  Many of you – our customers own Volkswagen TDI’s and are faced with a barrage of information and questions about this.  Hopefully we can help cut through some of the confusion or misinformation and provide a commentary and analysis that can be helpful.  At this point we have limited information and will be updating this note as more information and developments are forthcoming.

Background Information:

Beginning in January 2007, stringent emissions standards were phased in for the United States by the EPA for all highway diesel vehicles. These standards required a drastic reduction of allowable Nitrous Oxide (NOX) emissions as well as other emission components including diesel particulates (soot).  These standards were and are even more strict than European standards and were very difficult for manufacturers of diesel vehicles to meet.  The EPA must certify the emissions compliance of each vehicle sold in the US.  They do this by a standardized testing of a sampling of vehicles on a stationary dynamometer.  The test that they run is meant to mimic real world driving. They also use this test to help calculate fuel consumption for the EPA estimates that are found on the window sticker on new vehicles.  The conditions and parameters of this test are published and made available to the vehicle manufacturers so they know exactly what the car must do to pass and under what conditions the car will be run while tested.

The Issue:

A number of years ago European researchers discovered that real world NOX emissions of diesel powered vehicles in Europe were significantly different than the standardized emissions testing of new vehicles should indicate.  Since the US had much more stringent NOX emission control standards it was decided by one researcher to conduct a study of US diesel vehicles to see how the standards were being met in the US in an effort to learn how things could be done differently in Europe.  They teamed up with West Virginia University to conduct this study.  The researchers hooked up emission monitoring equipment to three different diesel powered vehicles and drove them around in different real world environments.  They also ran the standardized EPA dyno test on these same vehicles.   They found an interesting anomaly.  When they tested the VW diesel cars in the lab they met the EPA standard just fine.  But when they drove these same cars on the road the emissions of NOX were significantly higher than the EPA standard.  This study was published in May of 2014

Once the EPA and California Air Resources Board (CARB) were alerted to this anomaly, they conferred with Volkswagen to see what the discrepancy was all about.   Volkswagen did their own tests to try to verify the test results.  They came up with a revised software program that was supposed to result in lower real world NOX emissions and they recalled all 2009-newer TDI cars in December of 2014 to apply this software update.  In May of 2015 the EPA tested the recalled cars and found that NOX emissions had been improved in real world driving conditions but that the standards were still not being met.  They threatened to withhold certification for all 2016 Volkswagen diesel cars unless Volkswagen could prove that they had fixed the issue that allowed higher real world emissions than the standardized tested emissions.

Volkswagen then admitted that they had designed the engine management software in these diesel vehicles to recognize when a dyno test was being run or when the car was being driven on the road and they had written the software in such a way as to make sure that when it was on the dyno it would meet the emission standard.  When the car was being operated on the highway the tuning could be different and might not meet the emissions standards under all conditions.

Needless to say, the EPA and CARB are not very impressed and have issued a Notice of Violation to Volkswagen requiring that they recall all the affected vehicles (approx. 500,000) and fix them in such a way as to make certain that they will meet the standards in effect when the vehicles were manufactured.  They have also threatened criminal investigations and large fines.

What this means for Volkswagen:

This is a big deal and could be very detrimental to Volkswagen.  So far Volkswagen has not issued any public explanation but they have stopped the sale of all new and used 2009-newer TDI’s by their US dealers, they have pulled and scrubbed all their online ads for TDI diesel cars, they have promised to cooperate with the EPA and find a solution, and the VW CEO has apologized and promised an outside independent investigation.  Potentially VW could be exposed to millions or billions of dollars in fines and legal costs.  They also will be required to recall all 500,000 TDI vehicles made since 2009 and either retune or refit them so that they will meet the EPA standard.  And they will not be able to sell any new TDI’s until they can satisfy the EPA that the new cars will actually meet the standards in real world driving conditions.  This is not a good time to be Volkswagen and it certainly will hurt their dealer network as well.  Just the negative press alone will be very costly.  Hopefully Volkswagen has or will be able to develop a good solution fairly quickly.  But this could mean the end of TDI diesel sales in the US if the costs of compliance get too high.  And it certainly won’t strengthen VW’s position in the marketplace or their ability to develop new models for the US market.

What this means for you the TDI owner:

Many TDI owners are panicking and all bent out of shape over this news.  Just calm down.  The sky is not falling.  Your TDI car is still a good car that performs very well and gets excellent fuel mileage.  Its emissions are remarkably clean by any standard except perhaps the EPA NOX standard.   Even before the last recall VW TDI vehicles in the University of WV test were running much lower NOX emissions than previous generations of diesel engines.  For example, the 2013 Passat TDI had an average of .24 grams per mile of NOX.  Previous generations of TDI diesel engines were EPA certified at 1.0 gram per mile. The EPA standard is .05 grams per mile.  All other emission gasses were below the EPA limits in every test.

Some owners are worried about resale value. The resale value on your TDI might actually go up – especially if VW can’t sell any new ones for an extended period of time.  And if the values of diesel trucks are any indication, the vehicles with fewer emissions controls tend to hold their value better over time due to better fuel mileage and reliability.  In the short term resale value may go down, but these cars are already a great value and nothing has really changed that yet.

Once Volkswagen does come up with a solution and a recall then owners would be advised to be cautious.  You see these cars can indeed be made to meet the standard.  They have done so repeatedly on the dyno test.  What we don’t know for sure is why VW didn’t want to run that same programming all the time on the highway.  They were probably concerned about decreased service life of emissions components and reduced fuel mileage.  This might get a little technical, but you see in order to reduce NOX formation in a diesel engine you must reduce the temperature at which the fuel is burned.  This results in a less efficient use of diesel fuel and also causes increased production of soot which must then be trapped and burned in the diesel particulate filter (DPF).  The re-burning of the soot in the DPF is called a DPF Regeneration and what is left in the filter is small amounts of ash which accumulate over time and eventually clog the filter. The more soot that is created, the more fuel that must be used to perform the Regeneration and the more quickly the DPF will get permanently clogged by ash requiring replacement of the filter.  On the 2012-newer Passat TDI and on all the 2015 TDI’s VW installed a Selective Catalyst Regeneration (SCR) device which uses Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) to reduce NOX after the combustion.  This allows for a higher burn temperature and fewer DPF Regenerations.  It should be easier to bring these vehicles into compliance without any negative side effects other than an increased consumption of DEF.  The older TDI’s might be more difficult to bring into compliance without sacrificing fuel economy, power, or reliability.  So don’t rush to your Volkswagen dealer for the recall as soon as soon as it comes out.   Wait and see what the results will be and make an educated decision about whether or not it will actually be beneficial in the long run. And also be aware that once the recall is issued VW dealers will be required to apply the recall to every car that comes through one of their service centers. So if you don’t want the recall applied to your car right away then take it to a shop other than a VW dealership for service. Also if you are thinking about buying a used TDI the best time is probably right now while everybody else is panicking.

What this means for Mountain Valley Motors:

At Mountain Valley Motors we will continue to provide exceptional service and aftermarket solutions for Volkswagens and TDI’s.  We will stay abreast of developments and apply our technical experience and knowledge to give you good advice regarding maintenance and repairs to your TDI.  Because we are not a VW franchised dealership we have more options and alternatives to offer than VW dealers do.  We will continue to sell used VW TDI’s and anticipate higher demand and values over the long term.  We have a number of them for sale right now and just purchased several more units when this news broke.

What this means for the rest of the industry:

Almost all manufacturers of vehicles sold in the US have designed their vehicles to specifically meet the EPA standards under test conditions.  Under other conditions results may vary.   These revelations of what Volkswagen has been doing will probably result in a wide spread push to re-evaluate emission standard testing for other vehicles.  We are probably only seeing the tip of the iceberg here.  Many auto manufacturers are probably pretty nervous about now.  This will probably also effect manufacturers in Europe and other places around the world. This issue might stall the development of more diesel technology for passenger vehicles in this country.  Several manufacturers such as Mazda and Honda have promised diesel cars for a couple years now but have had difficulty meeting the EPA standards and so have not brought those cars to market in this country yet.  This certainly won’t help.

So all in all this looks to be a pretty big deal on a couple fronts.

But our advice is come see us at Mountain Valley Motors for all your automotive needs!

Drive More. Worry Less.

Tires – Inflation DOT Other Information

What do you know about your tires? – Tire information series

Inflation Pressures


Today in our series on tire information we will look at some more important information contained in the fine print on the side of your tires. Every tire has a rated maximum inflation pressure.  Often it will be found in small print around the rim edge of the sidewall.  It will say something like “Max. Load  670 kg (1477 lbs.) Max. Press. 340 kPa ( 50 PSI)”.  This means that the tire will safely carry up to 1477 lbs. and can be safely inflated up to 300 kPa (Kilopascal) or 50 psi (pounds per square inch).  Often the vehicle manufacturer will specify a slightly lower pressure on the door jamb sticker for purposes of ride comfort and handling performance.   For maximum tread life and fuel economy it can sometimes be helpful to inflate the tires to a pressure closer to the rating on the tire rather than the rating on the door jamb of the car, but doing this can sometimes negatively affect ride comfort and possibly traction.

DOT numbers and other information


Every tire sold in the US must have a DOT (Department of Transportation) number.  The DOT number is a safety certification number that includes information about who manufactured the tire and where and when (week and year) the tire was manufactured.  This number is useful if a recall needs to be made on a certain batch tires.  For potential recall or safety issues it is a good idea to register your tires with the manufacturer.  You can do this online or by sending in a DOT registration card (provided by your tire installer).

One other marking on some tires, is a directional marking.  Some tires are designed with a certain side of the tire intended to be mounted towards the inside or outside of the vehicle.  These tires will have either an “Inside” or “Outside” written on the tire and should be mounted accordingly.  Other tires are designed to provide good traction and treadwear only if operated in a certain direction.  These tires are called directional tires and have an arrow symbol or other marking on the outer sidewall of the tire indicating which direction the tire should be mounted for forward rotation.

Well, there you have it.  That covers the information found on most tires sold for passenger vehicles in the US.   Now you can be an educated consumer and impress your friends with your knowledge of tires.

If you are located in the Harrisonburg Virginia area – give us a call and we will be glad to help you choose the right tires for your car or light truck.

Tires – Treadwear, Traction, Temperature

What do you know about your tires? – Tire information series

Treadwear, Traction, Temperature

It isn’t just size that matters when choosing tires for your vehicle.  There are some other numbers and letters on the side of the tire that you should pay attention to.   You will find the treadwear listed in three digit numeric format such as “320” and the traction and temperature in letters such as AA, A, B, or C.



The treadwear rating is a relative measurement of the tire’s durability and tread life. It is important to remember that road surfaces, driving habits, and other factors determine actual tread life. Each tire manufacturer independently determines treadwear through their own tests. Treadwear is not based on any one industry or government standard.  The higher the number the longer the tire should last compared to similar tires from the same manufacture with lower numbers.  A tire with a treadwear rating of 800 should theoretically last about twice as long as a tire with a treadwear rating of 400.  A longer life tire will be designed with a harder rubber compound to withstand wear better.


Unfortunately, while a harder compound tire will last longer it will do so at the expense of some traction – particularly on wet surfaces.  The softer tire compounds will grip the road surface better for improved handling and braking performance.  The traction specification is listed beside the treadwear in the form of letters such as AA, or A, or B with AA being the highest grade possible.  The traction rating is a measurement of a tire’s ability to stop on a straight, wet surface under controlled conditions. It does not indicate the tire’s cornering ability on a wet surface or its traction on ice or snow.


The temperature rating is a measurement of a tire’s resistance to heat generation under normal operating conditions at recommended inflation pressures. Temperature grades range from A to C, with A being highest rated and therefore most resistant to heat generation.  Tires graded A effectively dissipate heat up to a maximum speed that is greater than 115 mph. B rates at a maximum between 100 mph and 115 mph. C rates at a maximum of between 85 mph to 100 mph. Tires that cannot grade up to C or higher cannot be sold in the US.

If you are located in the Harrisonburg Virginia area – give us a call and we will be glad to help you choose the right tires for your car or light truck.

Tires – Size, Load and Speed Ratings

What do you know about your tires? – Tire information series

Tire Size

For safe performance and good tire life it is very important that the tires you put on your vehicle are the right size.  On a label found on the door jamb of your car you can check to see what size tires your vehicle was designed to use and on this label you will find some numbers that look like this 225/45 R17.


You will also find these numbers on the sidewall of your tires.


The size of the tire is really pretty simple to decipher.  The first number – in this case the 225, is the width of the tread of the tire given in millimeters.  The second number describes the height of the sidewall (the part of the tire from the rim of the wheel to the tread).  This is expressed as a percentage or ratio of the tread width referred to as the aspect ratio.  In this case it is 45 which means that the sidewall height is 45% of 225 millimeters or about 101 millimeters.  The last number is the diameter of the wheel or rim expressed in inches – in this case a 17 inch wheel.  (I know, I know, it doesn’t make any sense to mix English and metric measurements). The “R” stands for radial construction.  A bias ply tire will not have any letter in front of the rim size.  Almost all passenger and light truck tires sold today are radial tires.  Sometimes you will find a “P” or “LT” in front of the size.  This designates what kind of use the tires are intended for.  “P” stands for passenger tire and “LT” stands for light truck tire.  Sometimes you will see a ZR instead of an R.  The “Z” designates the speed rating of the tire.  Speed ratings will be explained next.

Load and Speed Ratings

It isn’t just the size of the tire that is important.   Load ratings and speed ratings are also very important for safe driving and good tread life.  Again the manufactures recommendation will be found on the door jamb sticker and somewhere on the side of the tire you will see numbers and letters in this format “94H”.  The numbers represent the load rating of the tire.  Generally the higher the number the more weight the tire is designed to carry.  In this case the “94” indicates the tire is designed to carry up to 1477 lbs. at a normal inflation pressure.  “H” means that this tire is rated for speeds up to 130 mph.   Light truck tires have a different weight rating classification system with letters such as B,C,D,E which correspond to a ply rating.  “C” stands for 6 ply tires, “D” for 8 ply, and “E” for 10 ply.   These different ratings indicate the relative strength of the tire and maximum inflation pressures the tire can safely handle.

If you are located in the Harrisonburg Virginia area – give us a call and we will help you choose the right tires for your car or light truck.

Tires – Brand, Model, Features

What do you know about your tires? – Tire information series

Usually the most prominent markings on a tire are the name brand and model.  Tire manufacturers such as Michelin, Cooper, Firestone, B.F. Goodrich, want to make sure their name is featured prominently on the tire.  These companies also make a variety of tire models.  The tire model identification sometimes gives an indication of the intended use or special features of the tire.  For example a Cooper Discoverer AT3 tire is an all terrain (AT) truck tire intended for vehicles that might need to venture off the pavement. A Cooper Discoverer H/T tire has a tread pattern that is better suited to highway driving.  A Michelin LTX M/S tire is a Light Truck tire intended for all season use with better than average traction in mud and snow.  A tire like the Goodyear Fuel Max Assurance is a tire which has been designed for low rolling resistance (LRR) to facilitate better fuel economy.

People who live in areas that receive frozen precipitation in the winter should also take special note of the seasonal designation of tires.   All purpose or all season tires with good snow traction will often carry an M/S or M+S designation.  These tires are suitable for use year round and have above average snow and mud traction.  Purpose built winter only snow tires will generally have a mountain peak outline symbol with a snowflake inside.

Winter tire

These tires offer more extreme snow and ice traction and are generally not well suited for summer use.  Sometimes these tires are made to accept studs which are small metal spikes mounted into the tread.   Tires with an M+S A/S or AS designation in their model or elsewhere on the tire are considered all season tires.  These tires are a compromise between good hot/dry weather performance and snowy/wet weather performance. These tires will generally offer acceptable traction in minor wet and winter conditions as well as dry pavement but they are not true winter or snow tires.   If none of the above listed designations are on the tire or in the marketing literature then it is considered to be a summer or performance tire and should not be considered safe for slippery conditions in ice or snow but these tire will handle better on dry roads and in high temperature environments.

If you are located in the Harrisonburg Virginia area – give us a call and we will be glad to help you choose the right tires for your car or light truck.

What do you know about your tires?

What do you know about the tires on your car?

The automobile tire is possibly the least understood part of a modern vehicle. With all the technology that is employed in today’s vehicles, the tire is, and continues to be, the one component that few people truly understand. It is often overlooked and dismissed as a simple device. This is simply not the case. But unfortunately even people in both the retail tire industry and the automotive repair business often have very little knowledge of tires.


Have you ever wondered what all those little numbers on the sides of your car tires mean?  If you are like most people you have probably never given it a thought.  When it comes time to buy new tires you just tell the friendly salesperson at the tire shop to put on something cheap or something good. Most people care about the safety of their passengers and cargo and most people want a tire to wear properly so they don’t have to replace them often.  But do you know whether you are getting something good or whether or not the cheap tires are actually the right tires for your car and driving conditions? All those little numbers on the side of your tires can tell you whether the tires you are buying are the right tires for your vehicle and driving style.  But most of you probably don’t know what all those little numbers mean.

Don’t worry, Mountain Valley Motors is here to help.  Not only do we know what all those numbers mean, we will be glad to explain them to you so that you know exactly what you are getting.  So let’s get started on a little tutorial shall we?  Over the next couple days we will post a series of informational articles to explain what you need to know in order to be an educated consumer.

If you are located in the Harrisonburg Virginia area – give us a call and we will help you choose the right tires for your car or light truck.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Named Car of The Year

For the second time in 4 years Volkswagen wins the coveted Car of The Year (COTY) from Motor Trend magazine.  This time they did it with their newly redesigned Golf.  You can read all about it here.  The 2015 Golf is built in Mexico.

2015 Golf

The 2012 winner was the redesigned Volkswagen Passat built in VW’s new manufacturing plant in Chattanooga TN.  You can read that here.

.2012 Passat

Prior to 2012 the last time VW won this award was in 1985 with their Golf GTI that was built in Pennsylvania.

1985 GTI


Volkswagen continues to invest in North American manufacturing and state of the art technology in the their effort to be the largest car manufacturer in the world by 2018.   With these recent awards it is obvious that they are doing something right.

Although we don’t sell new 2015 Golfs at Mountain Valley Motors, we can find you lots of used Volkswagens from previous years.   And we can service your VW too.  We are glad to see the success of this great brand and congratulate VW on this award.  Hopefully this will translate into more VW cars produced so that we can continue to sell and service more used VWs in the years ahead.

Scam Alert! How do you tell if an auto listing you see online is a scam?

It seems the scammers are as busy as ever.

I have been reporting scams on our local Craigslist site for as long as there has been a local Craigslist site.  Many friends and acquaintances have inquired about purchasing a vehicle they found on Craigslist, AutoTrader, or eBay that turns out to be a scam.  Here is what you need to know in order to avoid such scams.

Many of these scammers offer to do the transaction through eBay so that you can utilize eBay’s Vehicle Purchase Protection (VPP).  They actually email you fake eBay listings pages and other information that looks like it comes from eBay but it doesn’t.  In fact eBay’s VPP doesn’t even operate like the scammers claim.  Complaining to eBay won’t help as they have nothing to do with it. EBay can’t stop scams on Craigslist, AutoTrader or other sites, they have a hard enough time patrolling their own site.

How do you tell if a listing you see online is a scam?

  1. No legitimate seller sells a vehicle for less than a dealer would pay for that vehicle. I mean why would they go to all the trouble to list a vehicle online when they could just drive down to their local used car dealership and sell them the car for a wholesale/trade in value?  Do you want to know what dealers pay for the car you are looking at?  Go to and do an appraisal on the car you are looking at.  Dealers usually pay somewhere close to average trade in value or a little less.  But not a lot less.  Bottom line: If you see a car advertised for thousands below KBB or NADA trade in values then you can be certain that it is either an outright scam or that there are serious problems with the vehicle.

No legitimate seller offers free shipping.

Why would they?  Shipping costs are usually $300-$1,000 within the US and double or triple that if coming from overseas.  Again, why would they offer free shipping when they could just take the car down to their local dealer and get the cash. Beware the military personnel scam.  They claim that they took their car overseas and now they found out that they can’t register it in the country where they are stationed.  They offer to ship it for free back to the US via US military transport.  Fact: The US military does ship service members vehicles for free, but they only ship from base to base and not to private residences of non-military individuals.  Also, no service member would be allowed to ship their car to a country where that car couldn’t be registered. Sometimes legitimate sellers will offer to help you arrange shipping and even add it to the total purchase price of the car (that is not wise for a number of reasons), but shipping always costs something.  Bottom line:  All offers to ship a car for free are 100% fraudulent.

No legitimate seller offers an inspection period.

Why would they send a car to you and pay the shipping only to have you decide you didn’t want it?  Nobody does business like that.  Some legitimate sellers do offer a customer satisfaction guarantee, but usually this is only if the vehicle was not as described in the listing and the buyer always has to pay the shipping both ways.  Furthermore, with a legitimate seller, payment for the car is always made before the car is shipped and the money is refunded only after the car is returned to the seller.  Bottom line: Nobody is going to sell you a car and wait for their money until after you have a couple days to inspect it.

eBay is not an escrow company.

EBay will not hold your money.  They never have and never will.  Doesn’t work that way.  There are escrow companies out there, but almost none of them make their services available for big ticket items like vehicles and most legitimate sellers would never use an escrow company for reasons cited above.

eBay does not have agents or warehouses.

You can’t even get a live eBay rep to answer a phone. eBay is strictly an advertising venue.  They do not actually conduct any transactions or store any product.  All transactions are directly between the buyer and seller.  There are no eBay agents or eBay warehouses.

eBay, Craigslist, AutoTrader, and do not condone the use of Western Union or Money Gram.

On all of the above mentioned advertising sites there are big bold warnings about not using these payment services.  The reason scammers use these money transfer services is that the money can be picked up anywhere in the world and it is very difficult to trace.  A legitimate seller accepts only cash, bank checks, or bank to bank wire transfers for payment.  They may ask you to leave a small deposit via PayPal but they will generally not allow you to make full payment via PayPal because PayPal payments funded with a credit card can be reversed.

All of these scams play off people’s desire for a bargain.   Never let your greed for a bargain override good old fashioned common sense.  “If it is too good to be true it always is” 

Now if you insist on supporting these scammers with your hard earned money don’t come crying to me or anybody else when you don’t get your “deal of the decade”.   You have been warned!