2 Convenient Locations in Santa Cruz & Freedom


My car battery is dead. How can I safely jump start or charge it?

We always recommend towing your vehicle to Specialized Auto without jump starting it. Modern day vehicles are extremely computerized. Computers are very susceptible to spikes in electrical current. Like a power surge from a lightning strike a jump start can cause such a spike in power. Though uncommon this would cause additional problems within your vehicle. When the vehicle arrives in a failed state, our expert vehicle repair team has the ability to perform optimal diagnostics. We can also test, service and restore your battery or offer a factory equivalent replacement. Our team can diagnose why the battery failed and prevent further issues through a conclusive repair.

Why is the check engine light on?

The check engine light indicator is turned on by the computers that monitor your engine, transmissions and all other systems. The goal is the lowest possible emissions and highest possible efficiency. Also, to detect if something has gone wrong and the car is no longer as reliable, clean and efficient as it should be. Sometimes the fault is serious and if ignored, will lead to the car not running at all. Though, sometimes it can occur when something as benign as a loose gas cap is venting fuel vapors into the air. The warning light is regulated by smog inspectors to let you know that the car is not running as cleanly as it should. There are many other malfunction lights on modern vehicles. Specialized Auto is equipped with factory level diagnostic equipment for all vehicles we specialize in.

Is there a major problem with my car if the malfunction indicator light is on? It seems to run completely normally.

If the light has come on, a fault has occurred. It never comes on by accident or when nothing is wrong. In the event, that the computer itself is going bad (by turning on check engine lights, ), then it is still considered a problem (according to government regulation). The vehicle’s computers work off of sensor signals and electrical circuits, situations arise where there are intermittent failures. Intermittent failures are those that come and go and are frequently the result of weak solder joints in component circuit boards or wiring harnesses. When a solder joint has contracted or expanded due to temperature changes (or has been jostled by bumps in the road), the flow of electricity can be changed. Specialized Auto is experienced in resolving all issues that may cause a malfunction light in your vehicle.

Can I drive my car with the check engine light on?

There is no way to know how severe the problem that turned on the light is until basic diagnostics has occurred. Our rule of thumb is this: If the car is running completely normally and all the fluids are full and gauges are reading normally, then the problem is likely to be less severe–which means the car may be reliable for the short term. If you have noticed a difference in the running condition, it should be looked at as soon as possible. If there is any doubt about the reliability or functionality of a vehicle, we recommend towing over driving. Safe really is better than sorry. Note: Even a car that feels like it is running completely normally may be having issues with how efficiently the engine is burning its fuel. When this occurs, unburned fuel is being pushed out of the engine and through the catalytic converter. This shortens the life of the converter–sometimes dramatically. Catalytic converters are very expensive and the only way to get as much life from them as possible is to make sure the engine is in the correct state of tune and the check engine light is not illuminated with faults by the engine management system.

How the check engine light is diagnosed

Generally, step one is to access the vehicle’s computer systems for fault codes. The fault codes are stored information about the kind of failure that has been detected. Sometimes the computer will indicate a fault in a particular component or sometimes in the functioning of a particular system. Once we have accessed fault codes, and then specific tests are run to verify the problem or problems. Specialized Auto is the dealership alternative for check engine and malfunction light service.

Why do you need to run diagnostic tests? Doesn’t the computer just tell you what’s wrong?

The computer can only read electrical signals – interpreting which section of a system has failed. Specialized Auto can determine the mechanical or electrical failure by isolating it. In some cases the computer itself has not developed a problem, and that a problem “upstream” in the system is not throwing off the entire system. (For example: Vacuum leaks in the intake system can cause the computer to register faults in the oxygen sensors that are bolted in the exhaust system.) The computer and the fault codes allow us a starting point in our testing that is much closer to the problem than would otherwise be possible. Contact us to schedule check engine light repair.

How much does it cost to diagnose a check engine light?

Accessing the computer and reading the fault codes can be done for no charge at Specialized Auto. Once we know what the fault code or codes are and we have some case history about the car, we can get an idea of what tests will be needed to diagnose the problem. We can then give an estimate of diagnostic costs. Fault codes are what allow us to determine the steps required to diagnose, repair and confirm that there are no other issues.

Why do we need this . . . stuff?

Vehicle manufacturers have progressed to produce advanced vehicles that are comfortable, reliable, safe and efficient. Specialized Auto focuses on a preventative approach to vehicle service & repair. We can help you keep your car running smoothly. We also offer a predictive maintenance service that is more precise than the manufacturer’s recommended services. Ask your Service Advisor today.