Duane’s Dealer Alternative Blog

Top Spring and Summer Car Care Tips

The holiday season is well past and the beginning of not just a new year but a new decade is upon us. We will have many reasons to travel through the decade, both figuratively and literally! The seasons in Safety Harbor are quite different from most of our country. We feel spring, summer, autumn, and winter in varying degrees and often not during the window of time described on a calendar. For us, it is reasonable to be discussing spring & summer car care in February!

Here are a few quick and easy pointers that can prevent bigger concerns when you least want them.

This problem can happen literally overnight

While our area may not experience the frigid temperatures that are common north of us, we have dips in temperatures that affect tire pressures. Most newer cars have tire pressure sensors (TPS) that will alert the driver of low tire pressure. Some even display each tire pressure on your dash to help catch overinflated tires. However, not all of us drive new cars. Florida temperatures may fluctuate 20, 30 or more degrees within a short time frame.

Assuming the correct size tires are installed on your vehicle, always follow the inflation pressure recommendations in your vehicle owner’s manual. Or refer to the tire information label located in the glove box or on the driver’s door jamb. The car manufacturer recommended tire pressure is conducive for optimum fuel mileage and tire wear. The simple step of monitoring your tire pressure (including the spare), can save you in costly downtime and hundreds of dollars by preventing a flat tire! Checking the tire pressure when the tires are cold is more accurate. Consider checking the tire pressure regularly every time you get fuel or every 10 degrees of change in temperature. Reputable independent auto repair facilities are often happy to help monitor your tire pressures free of charge. They can offer information above and beyond a PSI number.

If you need a charge, don’t get jolted! Have your battery checked!

Up north, friends and family may experience a dead battery due to frigid temperatures. In our area, it is an excellent time to check your car battery health before our extreme heat begins. Our high summer temps can often zap a weak battery more quickly than cold temperatures! Start the summer with a strong battery and recheck it in 6 months if your battery is three or more years old.

Additionally, newer car batteries often don’t provide any warning that they are about to fail. We are happy to test your battery and provide you a printout showing the battery health. Also, don’t forget all reputable battery manufactures carry a warranty on their batteries. We offer AC Delco batteries that include a 3-year warranty that provides free replacement for failed batteries. Our customers find these batteries worth the investment by either achieving greater longevity in battery life or the reassurance that they won’t need to pay for another battery within three years.

I can see clearly…

Our winter months have been slightly rainier than what most of us would consider typical, so we may not be as caught off guard to replace our windshield wiper blades this year. Regardless, our winter rain is barely a match for the sudden torrential downpours we experience in the summer months. Typically, our quality OEM replacement wiper blades need only be changed once a year. March or April are usually good months to consider this annual investment. 

Reach out to us for any concerns! We would love to get to know you better and we are happy to help!

May you A/C blow cold and sunscreen always be available!

For The Love Of Cars

A passion for cars is not a generational thing. Some people seem to be born with it, while some develop it once they get the privilege to drive, or maybe someone in their lives provides the influence. 

How it Began

Duane is a born car guy. From playing with an extensive collection of matchbox vehicles as a small child to evolving into refurbishing various VWs as a teen, to having that influential person say, why don’t you look into this up and coming car company called Lexus? And so it began in 1996 for nearly 14 years, Duane learned and grew with the Lexus of Tampa Bay store. He achieved his ASE Master certificate as well as earned all the highest honors for Lexus knowledge and workmanship to become Lexus Master Certified. When it came time to move on, Duane joined an independent repair shop in St. Pete, where he was exposed to all the inner workings of running a business. This position became the catalyst for Duane’s Dealer Alternative in Safety Harbor, FL, as we know it today.

On A Personal Note

While Duane’s professional life grew, so did his personal life. Getting married and having a son transpired before he jumped all in into the entrepreneurship world. Duane supported his family while his wife Kimberly left corporate America to be home with a new little boy Ezrah for a couple of years. When Kimberly received the opportunity to return to work with her previous employer, Duane now had the perfect opportunity to build the auto repair business he envisioned.

Life Evolves

With the knowledge and confidence that he could handle all the routine maintenance and repairs he was used to doing for an employer, Duane used his phenomenal people skills to build a business.  His priority is to be honest and fully transparent with each and every customer. This has served us well, with much of our business being built from word of mouth from happy customers. What started out as a one-man, one-bay shop in 2010 has evolved into a 3.5 person, three-bay shop fully equipped with all the necessary tools and equipment to rival most factory branded dealerships. While we are experts with Lexus & Toyota, we are happy to service most makes and models often, making us your one-stop for all your family’s vehicles.

Growth & Contribution

In more recent years, Kimberly left corporate America (again!) to help with the admin side of the business to let Duane focus on customers & quality work. We are thankful to have employees that share our vision and have helped us immensely as our company continues to grow. We strive to support our community and our industry by supporting Pinellas County public school’s internship programs and have sat on the Auto Advisory board at Pinellas Technical College.

Experience A Genuine Connection

Our dedication shows in everything we do. Duane & Kimberly will be celebrating 18 years of marriage, with a soon to be teenager, an energetic Doberman, lovable terrier, and adorable hamster. Through all of life’s challenges, we have been there for each other, and we will be here for you!

While we may lack a posh lobby or free loaner cars, we have a comfortable waiting area, and we will accommodate your scheduling needs as best we can. Be assured you are working with car people that value your business, and we welcome you to our family!

While routine maintenance and repairs are the main focus at Duane’s Dealer Alternative, we are also able to help people buy or sell a vehicle.  We provide performance modifications to your car and offer expert opinions to a plethora of car-related questions. Come check us out to see how we can be of service to you!

Brake Repair Service

Brake Repair Service in Safety Harbor, FL – Duane’s Dealer Alternative


Brake Inspection and Maintenance

It is important to have your entire automotive brake system inspected at least once per year, but having brake pads, rotors and drums checked every six months is an even better idea. Having your brakes inspected during your routine oil change is a quick easy way to knowing the health of your braking system. Brake pads and rotors must be kept to an acceptable thickness to prevent more costly brake system damage. Maintaining your cars brake system is among the most important steps to take in keeping your vehicle safe for you, your passengers and everyone else on the road with you.

Types of Brake Systems:

Most vehicles today use an Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), yet many vehicles still on the road use standard brake systems. The main components of a brake system include the rotors, the calipers and the brake pads, or brake shoes on drum brakes. Usually it is the pads or shoes that go unchecked and wear out that causes more serious damage.

What to Consider when Choosing Brake Repair

Since brakes are one of the more important parts of your vehicle, selecting a shop that doesn’t cut corners when fixing them is important. We have years of brake system experience and take care to ensure your brakes function as they should.

Types of Brake Pads and Brake Shoes:

Typically, there are two types of brake pads on most vehicles today. The most common brake pads installed on passenger vehicles are:
  • Semi-metallic brake pads. Most common. Long-term durability. The downside is that are sometimes noisy, they produce brake dust and they tend to wear down rotors faster than ceramics.
  • Ceramic brake pads. Less noisy and they wear down more slowly. Create less dust. Only downside is that they cost a little more than traditional brake pads.
Duane’s Dealer Alternative will help you choose the right brake system components for your vehicle. We want you to get the most out of your car!

Brake System Warning Signs:

Here are a few of the warning signs that may indicate your car needs to be checked. Please call us right away if you are having any of these issues:
  • Unusual shaking or vibration when applying the brakes
  • A high-pitched squealing noise coming from the brakes
  • A grinding noise or scratching noise when traveling at low speeds when not even applying the brakes
  • Having to applymore pressure to the brakes to get your vehicle to stop properly.

Brake Repair Tips:

The longer you go without fixing brake problems when they need it, the more unsafe they become and the more costly the repair. As pads wear out, the metal casing that holds the pads in place can begin to dig into the brake rotors. When this happens, it may require that the pads and rotors need to be replaced.

New Car!

Ah, the joy of acquiring a new car or at least a vehicle that is new to you! Most vehicles today have a seemingly endless list of features. Safety, performance, comfort, and technology to list a few. It is easy to let the excitement of a new car distract us from the reality of the commitment to maintaining our new vehicle. Anyone that has ever experienced the joy of a new puppy to soon realize the real time and energy behind taking care of our furry friend could attest to that idea!

Free Maintenance?

It’s no secret that when you are shopping for a new car, any salesperson you work with has a vested interest to sell or lease you a vehicle. Often times, car dealerships have their own service departments that they prefer you utilize for your car. In some cases, the salesperson can offer you a maintenance package. Regardless of any cost associated with this added feature, please be sure you completely understand what you are getting.  And in turn, what your obligations are in the future for the routine maintenance of the vehicle. What happens if you move and the current dealership is no longer convenient? What happens if you miss a scheduled service?  If you sell or trade the vehicle before the service package expires, does it go with the car or might you be eligible for a prorated refund?

Your Choice

These are all valid considerations.  At Duane’s Dealer Alternative, we believe it’s your car and your choice when it comes to all your routine maintenance and repair needs. Whether purchased or leased, you are entitled to have your new vehicle, which is still under the original factory warranty, serviced at the location of your choice.


Any qualified auto repair facility provides all the backup needed to help you maintain your original factory warranty. Your receipt, otherwise known as a Repair or Work Order, details the parts and labor for any work performed on your vehicle. Ideally, keep all this information together. The day may come when you require warranty service, which does have to be performed at an authorized dealership.  Then you may need to verify you have been maintaining the vehicle within the recommended factory guidelines. Independent auto repair shops understand this requirement and should always assist you in helping make sure you do at least the minimum maintenance to your car.  This is to maintain your factory warranty in good standing.   


There are several qualified, locally owned independent auto repair shops, and Duane’s Dealer Alternative is one of them.  Our small staff helps ensure you not only receive our best service, but you are working with the same core people when you call or visit. Family owned and operated with employees that are “car guys.” We understand you have choices, and we pride ourselves on being a highly qualified option for your automotive needs. We not only offer exceptional service, but we are also happy to answer questions as well as provide recommendations or referrals for most of your automotive needs. 


Our ASE Master Certified Lead Technician, Duane Desouza, has over 30 years of experience in the automotive industry.  Fourteen of which are Lexus and Toyota dealership experience as well as factory training.  Soon, we are celebrating 10 years in the independent auto repair industry. Our staff touts similar levels of experience in the automotive industry, and we all look forward to serving you as our customer!