April 15, 2020 by Paul Cortes

COVID-19 — We’re Open

We consider the work we do essential; it’s very hard to get around in the bay area without a car and public transportation isn’t the most attractive option right now.

We’ll be here to keep you rolling unless any of us get sick. If any of us test positive, we’ll be shutting down to protect our other employees and customers.

We’ve always had sanitizer dispensers in our office on both sides of the customer counter. The office is a place where people touch the same phones, pens, PIN pads, etc., and it and we’re doing our best to minimize the risk to both our customers and our employees with regular wipe-downs.

If you’re feeling ill, immune compromised, or have other underlying health issues, it’s probably best to stay home to ride this one out. Please stay safe. Everyone at Art’s wishes you and those you care about the best.


May 13, 2020 by Paul Cortes

What should I do if my car won’t start?

.Now that we’re finally nearing the end of the shelter-in-place, and more people are starting to go back to work, many are finding their car won’t start. We’re getting a lot of calls every morning with this complaint, so I’m going to offer a little guidance in this short post.

What kind of no-start?

First, what kind of “no-start” is it? When a car won’t start it typically falls into one of two categories: “crank no-start” or “no-crank no-start”. Here’s where I normally make the “cranking but not starting noise” when I’m talking to a customer. I’ll pantomime turning a key to the start position and go “juh-juh-juh-juh-juh”. Or is it cha-cha-cha-cha-cha? I’m not sure, but a crank no-start is when the starter spins the engine but the engine doesn’t start (go “vroom”).

Crank No-start

If the engine is cranking, chances are you’re not going to be able to fix it yourself unless you know quite a bit about car repair, but there are a few things to check. Check the gas gauge. Did it run out of gas while sitting during the lock down? Probably not, unless you have a teenager. The other thing is to check to see if the immobilizer light is flashing when the key is in the ON position. A lot of folks did a lot of deep cleaning during the shelter in place and found all that stuff they’ve been missing, including car keys. The scenario is usually something like this:

  • you lose a car key
  • you have a new key made (erasing the old key)
  • the old key is found, but it won’t start the car

Anyway, if the immobilizer light is blinking, try a different key and see if the car starts. If so, we can make your old key work again. If not, we will still be able to figure out why the immobilizer system is preventing starting. A lot of Nissan products will actually erase all keys if the battery voltage gets low, which can be pretty annoying for the car’s owner.

No-crank, No-start

A no-crank, no-start is when you turn the key to the start position and there’s no noise, or maybe a series of clicks, or some slow grunting noise, but there no “juh-juh-juh-juh-juh” noise the engine makes when it’s cranking.

This is the more popular kind of no-start in this almost-post-COVID world. Cars don’t like to sit, and the battery is usually the first component to start complaining. When the car is sitting, it draws a small amount of current from the battery. It uses the current computer memory and to keep the body control module awake so the doors will unlock with the remote or the smart key. If the car sits, the battery will eventually discharge and the car won’t start. If this is the issue try the following:

How to jump start a car
  1. Don’t connect the cables backwards! Make sure that positive is connected to positive and negative is connected to negative. Reversing the polarity can to major damage. (over $1000 in some cases)
  2. Connect the jumper cables to the donor car, red to the positive terminal, black to the negative terminal.
  3. Connect the red jumper cable to the positive terminal of the car that won’t start.
  4. Connect the black jumper cable to a metal part on the engine block, which can be hard to do these days since plastic is used for so many engine part these days. If you can’t find anything on the engine block, just connect is to the negative battery terminal. Scroll all the way to the bottom if you want to know why you’re not supposed to do this.
  5. Start the donor car.
  6. Let the donor car run for 15 minutes or more. Why? Most of the jumper cables sold these days are absolute junk. Jumper cables should be at least 2 gauge, but almost all of them are 12 gauge, which isn’t big enough to carry the current necessary to start a car. If you let the donor car run for 15 minutes or longer, you’ll charge the dead car’s battery a bit so it can assist with the starting.
  7. Drive for a minimum of 30 minutes or take the car to the shop for battery charging and testing. It’s a good idea to charge and test the battery even if the car continues to start because: 1) batteries can be damaged by sitting in a discharged state, and 2) your daily commute may not be enough to fully recharge the battery.
Be careful out there!

Anyway, congratulations on needing a car again. Drive safe! East Bay drivers who’ve never driven outside of a traffic jam are driving like maniacs on the open freeway. Unfortunately many don’t have the skills necessary to drive at speed. Watch out!

We’re here if you need us

Click here if you’d like to make an appointment or give us a call at 510-540-7093 if you’d like to talk


The reason people advise against connecting the final clamp directly to the battery terminal is that it will likely spark. Batteries create hydrogen gas (same stuff as the Hindenburg) when they charge or discharge, so that spark might set off an explosion. That said, it’s pretty rare and typically only happens after the battery has been charging a long while. I was a mechanic for nearly 25 years before I ever saw it happen.


April 20, 2020 by Paul Cortes

Prius catalytic converter anti-theft device

Prius catalytic converter anti-theft device update

Prius catalytic converter thefts are still a thing in Berkeley, unfortunately. We’ve installed over 300 Prius catalytic converter anti-theft device and so far, no thieves have been able to get away with the converter. Of course, there’s no way to “theft proof” a converter. Where there’s a will there’s a way, but so far our “theft proofing” has the thieves beat 300 to 0. Here’s the thing, they still do some damage. In a few cases we’ve seen them cut the pipe, hangers, and O2 sensor wires before realizing they’re not going to get the converter. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the repairs are usually around $100, instead of $3000. Who knows, maybe the car will fall on him while he’s struggling. (I know. It’s mean to wish that on someone for a property crime, but it’s hard not to feel bitter after you wake up in the middle of a recession to find you are now $3000 poorer than you were when you went to sleep. Especially true if you don’t have comprehensive insurance and are out of work due to COVID-19.)

So far we’ve seen a few with the converter cut, but the thief wasn’t able to take the converter. The most common sign of a theft attempt is cut O2 sensor wires, a check engine light, and a code P0037 (B1S2 O2 sensor heater). And we’ve seen a couple of attempts where the car’s owner notices a big lump in the passenger’s or driver’s floor where the thief jacked the car up using a non-approved jacking point. 


Prius catalyst interuptus

The good news is that we’re now seeing a lot of the cars that we’ve installed our prius catalytic converter anti-theft device on come back, with the converters still under the car. Why would we see them again if the converter isn’t stolen? Well, thieves aren’t the brightest, and they often don’t notice the anti-theft until after they’ve done some damage. They may cut the O2 sensor wires, cut the pipe, and unbolt flanges, but when they try to remove the converter, they find they can’t.

The thieves are still plying their trade and we’re still seeing 1 -5 per per day. A person or two is arrested here and there. A man was crushed to death in Berkeley. Still, the problem continues.

The O2 sensor wiring on this converter was cut. The sensor is a $184 part, and removing the connector under the passenger side carpet takes a bit of time. However, we can repair the wires to avoid replacing the sensor, saving some money.

Unfortunately the wires in the O2 sensor pigtail are marine-grade nickel plated stranded wire, which is hard to solder, even with flux.

Crimp connectors work just as well, but standard insulated crimp connectors will let water in and even with marine grade wire, water and salt isn’t great for connections, so we’ll need to seal these up.

Double wall heat shrink tubing forms a watertight seal and will protect the connectors from the elements.

If a thief tries to cut the O2 sensor wires again, he’s in for a surprise. We’ve zip-tied a piece of hardened cable along side the wires. The wires may still be damaged, but his side cutters will be damaged as well. And if this is his first step, maybe he’ll realize the converter won’t be coming off very easily.

another type of prius converter anti-theft device

Some flexible conduit will help protect the wires from abrasion and hide our little surprise. Orange is the color code for high voltage, maybe that’ll deter some of the more knowledgeable dirtbags, probably not many of those though. Perhaps just the fact that it looks different will give them pause. One can only hope.

Our Prius catalytic converter anti-theft device has proven effective so far. With so many installed on cars in Berkeley, news may eventually spread around the tweaker campfire, and perhaps they’ll retool and come up with a way to get the cables off. But for the time being, this seems to be the best way to prevent catalytic converter theft. 

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