Auto Repair in Mint Hill – How to Improve Fuel Economy… Without Buying a New Car

Lets not play games, folks – we can pretend, we can say it’s not a big deal, but that does not shield us from the truth – gas is expensive! Saving at the pump is crucial now more than ever. Here’s some simple, easy-to-do tricks to increase those MPG’s.

Weight Reduction

Weight Reduction sounds complex, like something someone trying to shave a tenth of a second off their lap time at Charlotte Motor Speedway would do, but it’s actually easier than you think. Those of you who have a second home in their trunk or a nice heavy toolbox on their truckbed should consider removing anything in or on the vehicle that isn’t important. This can include things like gym bags, electronics, or tools you have not used in forever.

Throttle Control

Now, I am all for solid takeoff times – After all I used to have a Challenger I ran at the drag strips when I lived in Florida – but you don’t have to pull off of a red light guns blazing. A gentle approach to your desired speed is better for your wallet. This also applies to merging onto the highway. Remember, those on-ramps are designed to get you up to the speed limit before you actually hit the highway, there’s no need to floor it down one.

Spark Plugs

This one is a bit tricky, because doing spark plugs just for the sake of doing them is meaningless if you don’t need them. It’s worth considering if you are having severe fuel economy issues, but if the plugs are fairly new, there’s no sense in replacing them. As with many things, check with a professional first to avoid unnecessary spending.

No Unnecessary Idling

Sitting in a parking lot, waiting in a long drive thru line, stop-and-go traffic… If you find yourself in any of these situations on the regular, you’re burning gas at a horribly fast rate. So the next time you want to wait in line for your mocha frappuccino, consider parking and walking in.

Find Cheaper Gas

If you visit Costco, BJ’s, or even some Walmarts that sell gas, buy it. It can be 20¢ cheaper sometimes. We haven’t bought gas for our company van anywhere else since just because of that.

If you prefer traditional pumps, check out phone apps like GasBuddy. Apps like these show you the cheapest gas near where you are, whether you’re here at home or 1000 miles away.

 

As always, if you have questions about your car’s fuel economy, feel free to call Manchester Auto and Tire of Mint Hill at 704-545-4597, email us at kenmanchester1@gmail.com, or message us on Facebook at facebook.com/ManchesterAutoandTireOfMintHill.

Auto Repair in Mint Hill – Is it Time for New Shocks & Struts?

Shocks and struts are an integral part of driving comfortably. The main purpose of shocks & struts is to absorb kinetic energy (objects have kinetic energy due to being in motion, in this specific case, it’s the vehicle’s suspension system) and dissipate it as heat energy so that the cabin of the vehicle has a smooth ride as possible. Shocks have a piston & hydraulic fluid inside of them, and control bounce & sway by only letting a small amount of fluid through the piston on bounces. This slows down the piston, and in turn, the suspension. Struts perform the same basic function, but also act as structural support, unlike the shock. Because of this this, wheels with struts don’t need an upper control arm or ball joint. This compact setup is popular on front-wheel drive cars. Though you may have shocks and struts on the same car, like one kind in front & the other in the rear, you’ll never have shocks and struts on the same wheel.

“So how do I know if I need new ones?”

The basic signs usually are one (or multiple) of these:

  • Poor steering & handling
  • Noise coming from the general area of the shocks and struts
  • Tire wear that an allignment cannot fix
  • The vehicle sways & bounces “like a boat”
  • The vehicle leaks fluids onto the ground that clearly aren’t coming from the engine or transmission.
  • visible damage to the shocks & struts such as dings or dents.

Please note that, while these symptoms can be signs of bad shocks and struts, every vehicle is different and more than one issue can cause some of the above listed symptoms. To avoid unnecessary spending, please have diagnostic work done by a professional.

 

For more information on shocks, struts, suspension and everything that goes with it, don’t hesitate to call Manchester Auto & Tire of Mint Hill, LLC at 704-545-4597, email us at kenmanchester1@gmail.com, or message us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ManchesterAutoandTireOfMintHill.

 

Auto Repair in Mint Hill – The Most Common Ways Cars Fail State Inspections

State inspections are a staple of North Carolina Car Ownership, and you’ve most likley been through the process of getting one before. If you want to keep your visit short and sweet, try to avoid these common mistakes so you don’t have to spend extra time trying to pass.

Safety

All vehicles are required to go through a safety test. Vehicles model year 1995 and older, as well as vehicles less than three model years old and with less than 70,000 miles, require a Safety Only test. This test is $13.60 ($23.60 with window tint), and cannot have sales tax applied to it. This test covers all safety components such as brakes, headlights, wipers and tires.

Common Fail Methods: Bald Tires, Non-Functioning lights, Aftermarket Lights.

  • Tires cannot go below 2/32″ at their worst point. So even if the inside of the tire looks brand-new, if the tire has worn improperly and is below 2/32″ at any point, it fails.
  • Turn signals (with the exception of the rear turn signals which can be red and part of the brake light) must be amber in color. even if they function but are not amber, they fail.
  • All headlights, including high beams, must function, even if you only drive during the day. Sometimes high beams burn out, and you may not even know because you only use them on occasion. As always, check before you go to the test!
  • Aftermarket lights are cool, but unfortunately fail every time If it didn’t roll off the assembly line with them, the vehicle fails. That means no aftermarket LED headlights and no underglow. Many shops are petitioning this rule though, so don’t give up hope yet, tuners!

Emissions

Vehicles model year 1996 and above, with the exception of vehicles less than three model years old and with less than 70,000 miles, require a Safety & Emissions test, which is $30 ($40 with window tint) and cannot have sales tax applied to it. Safety & Emissions have all aspects of the Safety Only tests, as well as common emissions checks such as checking to make sure OBDII functions are not imapred, that vehicles have not had emission components tampered with, and that the vehicle does not have a the Malfunction Indicator Lamp (Check Engine Light or CEL for short) in the “on” position.

Common Fail Methods: CEL on, Non-functioning CEL, tampered emissions components.

  • Removing emissions components, like “Straightpiping” a car (removing the catalytic converter for a mean, deep rumble) are immediate fails.
  • When the car’s key is in the “on” or sometimes the “acc” position, most dash lights come on – they do this so you can check to see if the bulbs are still good. If the CEL does not illuminate here, the vehicle fails.
  • Check Engine Lights on vehicles that qualify for emissions tests cannot be on for any reason and still pass said emissions tests. Any vehicle with a CEL fails, even if just for a loose gas cap. Have it checked first!

Window Tint

In North Carolina, window tint can only be as dark as 35%, with exceptions being made for medical purposes. On cars, every window applies. On SUV’s, Trucks and everything else, only the front two have to be 35%, the rest can be as dark as desired. The windshield on any vehicle cannot have tint pass below the “AS1” line (check on the driver’s side of your windshield about 1/5 of the way down, you’ll see a small “AS1” printed.) Again, this can only be at most 35%. Any state inspection where tint was tested is required by law to have a $10 window tint fee.

Common fail methods: Too dark

  • On most vehicles, the back windows are already darker than the fronts off the assembly line. While 35% tint on the front may make those windows 35%, it may make the rear ones 30% or 25%. When  tinting rear windows on vehicles that have their rear windows tested like sedans, remember – use lighter tint on the rear!

Auto Repair in Mint Hill – What Do Oil Grades Mean?

Have you taken a peak at your oil change sticker or owner’s manual to see what kind of oil you’re running in your car? No, not standard or synthetic, but the grade of oil? It usually reads like 5W30 or 0W20. Sure, you’ve probably seen that combo of letters and numbers before, but what does it mean? Today, we’re going to talk about just that and why using the right kind is important.

Today’s oil grading system was created by a group called the Society of Auto Engeneers (SAE). The need for a new grading system came to be when “year round” oil was invented around about half a century ago. Previously, Cars needed thinner oil in the winter, and thicker oil in the summer. Oil thins at higher temperatures and thickens at lower ones, and the numbers (0, 5, 10, 20 etc.) measure just how the oil reacts to different temperatures. Thanks to additives, modern oil can be used in both hot and cold seasons. For example, a 5W20 oil acts like an SAE 5 oil at 0°F and an SAE 20 oil at 212°F – in other words, you don’t have to switch to “winter” or “summer” oils to properly lubricate parts – one kind of oil can do both.

So why is it important to use the factory reccomended kind of oil?

The short answer is that your engine is engeneered for it. While it is true that modern oils can lubricate in both hot and cold seasons, everything in your engine that touches oil wasn’t just designed to be lubricated – It was designed to be lubricated certain ways in certain temperatures – and the oil your manual calls for is the best way to do that. If your car calls for 5W30 and you use 5W20, for example, the oil’s viscosity may not be adequite for how your engine was designed, so if your owner’s manual calls for 5W30, you should stick to that. Don’t substitiute because a different grade oil is on sale one week – while you may not see or feel any changes immediatley it could be detremental to your engine in the long run.

 

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to call Manchester Auto and Tire at 704-545-4597, email us at kenmanchester1@gmail.com, or message us on facebook at facebook.com/ManchesterAutoAndTireofMintHill

 

Auto Repair in Mint Hill – How to Keep Up With Recalls and See if Your Car Has Been Recalled.

Recalls are a dime a dozen. Sometimes recalls are issued in small batches, like when Volkswagen recalled just 250 cars earlier this year, and sometimes they’re huge, like when Takata had 35-40 Million inflators recalled by more than a half-dozen different manufacturers including Honda, Ferrari and Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles. While quality control on today’s cars are, for the most part, better than vehicles of the past, no company is perfect and recalls happen. This ultimately rases one big question; “How do I know if my car was recalled?” Fortunatley, theres many ways to check.

Mail

If the manufacturer of your vehicle has a current address for you, they can send you recall info right to your mailbox. This isn’t the most reliable source, however, as mail delivery can be inconsistent, and you even getting a recall letter is entirely dependent on the manufacturer having a valid address for you.

Primetime News

Major recalls, Such as the Takata Airbag recall, usually make national news, and recalls that effect certain geographical areas, like recalls for salt corrosion issues, usually make local news. Again, this isn’t the most reliable method since some recalls are small in nature, you may not see a recall for your vehicle in the news.

Automotive News Outlets

Unlike nightly news, magazines and websites based around the automotive industry rely on recall information to reel in readers. Some popular ones include Motor Trend, www.autonews.com, and Car and Driver. Again, these sites and mags may not run info on small batch recalls, but can be earlier in reporting than non-automotive focused sources.

www.nhtsa.gov/recalls

The National Highway Traffic Saftey Administration, or NHTSA, has an option on their site for checking if your vehicle has been recalled. You can check most accuratley by entering your vehicle’s 17 digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) which can be found under the windshield, on the door or door jam, and on your registration card. There’s also some other cool tools there like a tire-brand safety checker. This is ususally the best source because it finds recalls based on your exact vehilce thanks to the VIN tool.

Auto Repair in Mint Hill – A Multi-Part Series About Lemons, Their Laws, and the Citrusy Sour Problems They Cause.

PART I: WHAT LEMONS ARE LEMONS AND WHO MAKES THEM

To most, Lemons are a versatile fruit that works great in Tea, helps freshen the air, and remove the occasional stain. To the auto industry, however, lemons are anything but useful.

A Lemon is a slang term referring to any car that was an absolutle piece of junk right off the assembly line. Was it bad parts? Poor engineering? Hasty assembly? It’s hard to pinpoint exactly, but it happens, and it’s expensive.

All data concerning the amount of lemons made by each car company below comes from a 2016 Study done by AutoGuide. You can view the data on their website, AutoGuide.com.

Too Tart to Tame

Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles

FCA produced the most lemons. Of the nine car brands they sell, five were below the industry average. Fiat was hands down the worst on the list, they made one 1 lemon for every 76,808 cars produced. Jeep made one for every 131,574 cars, Dodge made one for every 402,728 cars, Chrysler made one for every 596,377 cars, and Ram made one for every 856,136 trucks.

Background Info: Chrysler has played hot potato with istelf many times over the last few years, constantly changing names and owners. After being partnered with Mercedes-Benz owner Diamler for years, Diamler bailed out during the recession and shortly after filing for bankrupcy, Chrysler was purhased by Fiat.

Ford Motor Company

The majority of their brands did not make this list, but flagship Ford did, and it didnt do well, making one lemon per every 676,484 cars. Their F-Series of trucks are highly touted as quality, so the lemons are likley coming from the Sedans and SUV’s. (by the way, Ford is axing all sedans in their lineup except for the Mustang and Focus.)

Background info: FoMoCo is not the first car company Henry Ford started (ever heard of Cadillac?) but it was the one to actualy keep bearing his name in the end. Ford is one of the longest standing automakers in the USA, and was one of the few American car companies to make a profit in 2009.

Sweet & Sour

General Motors Company

GM is a curious case, as they have both the 5th best and 2nd worst brands on the list. Buick was stellar, manufacturing one lemon per 1.26 Million vehicles. Cadillac, however, was only bested by Fiat for the brand with the worst quality control with one lemon every 103,167 vehicles. Flagship Chevrolet was well below industry average with one lemon per 640,438 cars.

Background Info: Though it’s brand is over 100 years old, General Motors Company is technically only 8 years old, as the original General Motors Corporation went bankrupt in 2009 and sold off it’s brands to New GM. The Majority of General Motors statyed intact under the new company because the GM trademark as well as most major brands were purchased. Not everything was saved, however. Rest in Peace, Hummer.

Honda Motor Company

Honda was second best, with only one lemon per approximately 3 Million cars. Luxury brand Acura, however, made one lemon per 516,436 cars.

Background Info: After nearly being purchased by Mitsubishi in the 1990’s due to a hostile takeover attempt, Honda quickly entered the SUV and Minivan market, stole American autobuyer’s hearts in the process, and haven’t looked back yet.

Certified Fresh

Toyota Motor Corporation

Toyota built their legacy on longevity, and today that’s no different. they did a whopping 10 times better than the industry average, making one lemon per 11 Million vehicles. 2nd place Honda was 8 million cars behind.

 

Background Info: Toyota is credited with having the most efficent assembly line of any industry and holds the unique distinction of being “more American” than 3 of it’s actual American counterparts by building 61% of it’s fleet in the United States – more than Buick, Chrysler and Lincoln.

Honorable Mentions:

Diamler AG, BMW.

Mercedes-Benz, and BMW took 3rd, and 4th respectivly. Mercedes and BMW almost tie at approximately one lemon per 2 million cars. German engineering once again proves it’s consistency.

 

Next time, we’ll talk all about Lemon Laws in North Carolina.

Auto Repair in Mint Hill – Should I Trade in My Car?

 

Have you ever owned a car that seemed to spend more time in the garage getting fixed than in your garage at home? As you sit in the waiting room of the auto shop you find yourself asking “Is it time for a new car? I’m here it seems quite a bit.” The answer to that question, like many other things in the auto industry, isn’t as black-and-white as it may seem.

Consider Current Repair Costs.

It isn’t fun when you have to give up your car for a day to have it fixed. It can seem tedious when you go to your local shop almost monthly, but consider the average dollar amount of what you spend fixing your car – is it less than $509 a month? According to Cars.com, that was the average price of a new car payment in the first quarter of 2017. If you’re spending more than that on average, it’s time for a new car (or a new-to-you used car with low milage – cars just off their first-owner’s lease are great buys!)

 

Consider A New Car’s Future Repairs.

Buying a new car isn’t like buying a TV. You can’t just save up for it, buy it, and be done spending – even with a new car, you’ll have to visit the shop. Though maintaining a new car is inherently cheaper than maintaining an old one, oil changes, factory-required tune ups at specific mileage, and the like still have to be done. Bottom line – if you can afford a car payment, but can’t afford the car’s maintanence that goes with it, you can’t afford a new car.

Consider the Time Value of a New Car.

Let’s say you spend only $1,800 a year keeping your old car running. Averaging just $150 a month is great for a car 15-20 years old, but what if it is your only mode of transportation and you can’t make the time to go to the shop? It may be time to get a new car. Though you’ll likely be paying more monthly due to a car payment, you’ll be in the shop far less – probably just once every 3-5 months for those oil changes and factory-reqired jobs we talked about earlier. That may be worth more to you than the money you’re saving repairing the old car, depending on your job or health.

Auto Repair in Mint Hill – Is My Car Ready for a Summer Road Trip?

Finally, summer is here! The older kids are back from college and the younger ones will be done in June. It’s time to start planning that family road trip, and you’ve already picked a spot, booked the hotel, and packed your bags, but there’s one thing left to do – make sure the car is ready. But what exactly should you do though to get your car ready? Here’s a few key checkpoints to look over:

 

  • Tires

Tires are important all the time, but especially so on a road trip. After all, they are the one thing separating you from the road. Check tread wear and make sure the tire has not worn unevenly, and check tread depth to make sure it is above 2/32″. If a tire is not “ready” it should be replaced before a road trip, especially if its a long one.

  • Fluids

This one you should take your car to the shop for because a proper fluid check looks at more than just the fluid itself. An old hose carrying coolant, for example, may be able to take the workload of your 20 minute commute fine, but could bust on a 7 hour drive, so its best to replace before that happens. A proper fluid check for road trips doesn’t just top off fluids, but checks for leaks that may be hard to see and, if needed, replaces old, worn-out lines and cracked hoses

Don’t forget, you may need to have your A/C fixed, if you’re already in for a fluid checkover, that’s the best time to do so!

  • Fuel Economy

Gas is expensive, and it adds up quick on a road trip. Don’t take the biggest vehicle you own if you don’t have to. Bigger vehicles and bigger engines consume more fuel and have worse MPG’s.

  • Safety/First-Aid Kit.

A First-Aid Kit is a great thing to have in a car at any time, but especially so during a road trip. A summer-ready kit should contain the basics such as band aids, gause and snacks, but should also have sunscreen, a portable battery pack to charge phones (some of these packs double as jumper boxes for your car, that’s always a plus) as well as a warning sign (they are triangular and orange) and some over-the-counter style scrape cleaner.

  • Have Some Repair Money Ready.

It’s unfortunate, but things break. Sometimes they break away from home. Though hopefully this never happens to you, have some money set asside for incase you have to make emergency repairs.

PROTIP: Most independent shops have a nationwide warrenty program. Go to these shops. For example, if you have your vehicle serviced at a shop with a TechNet warrenty program in Texas, and that part needs to be warranteed out back here in NC, any shop that uses that program can do the job here at home, and vice-versa.

  • Consider Your Vehicle’s Mileage.

Some cars break more than others. For example, an Ol’ Reliable 2000 Chevy Tahoe with 240,000 miles is something to be proud of, and is a great daily driver, but it’s 18 years old and is more likley to break down on the road. If the miles are high on your vehicle, it is probably best to rent something else for the trip.

Auto Repair in Mint Hill – What is OBDII?

If you’ve had an emissions inspection done on your vehicle, or have ever had a check engine light come on, you’ve most likley heard the term “OBDII” before. But do you know what it means?

OBDII is an acronym for On-Board Diagnostics II. OBDII is a car’s self-diagnositc tool, it can perform basic diagnostics on itself and can give a broad idea on what is or isnt causing a problem. If you own a car that is model year 1996 or newer, you have OBDII. Though some vehicles from madel year 1995 have OBDII, it was not legally required.

What Can OBDII Do?

OBDII’s most common use is as a self-diagnostic tool. For example, whenever your check engine light comes on, OBDII also generates a code which shows why the light is on. For example, if you have a misfire, your check engine light would come on and OBDII would produce a code like P0300.

Are there Downsides to OBDII?

While in some areas OBDII can be very speific, in others it can be broad. For example, code P0300 means “Random or Multiple Misfires.” While this information is useful, it doesnt clarify why those random misfired happened, it only shows that misfires happened. OBDII is best used as a tool to “point you in the right direction” as compared to a definite diagnostic.

Why is OBDII Important?

While OBDII helps diagnose issues, like a misfire, OBDII also helps keep our air cleaner by monitoring emissions systems. OBDII is also what makes State Inspections possible. OBDII is also responsible for speeding up diagnostic times on engine related repairs.

Auto Repair in Mint Hill – Is My Car Ready for a Winter Road Trip?

Once again, the holidays have arrived. Colder weather, lots of food, and, for some, road trips. While a road trip may seem like a fun adventure, having one in cold weather is a whole new ballgame. Before you head over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house, ask yourself, “Is my car ready for a winter road trip?” If you aren’t sure, here are a few things to check before you leave.

1. Tires.

Tires are important in any season – after all, they do keep you glued to the road – but in winter tires have all new obsticals to overcome. Things like black ice, snow, and even heavy rain are all things you may see on your trip, and old tires are dangerous in these situations. 2/32″ is the legal minimum for tire tread, but if you are traveling somewhere that definitley is getting snow (Buffalo, for example) you should replace long before that.

2. Wipers.

Much like tires, wipers are also an all-season divice, but becomes much more useful in the winter. In areas where snow has fallen and things like mush and salt cover the road, your wipers will be in almost constant use. If your wipers are old, they may not wipe off melted snow or physical debris as well as new ones would.

3. Defrosters.

Even in a fairly mild winter climate like the Carolinas, windshields and mirrors are bound to freeze over or fog up. While it may not be necessary to have defrosters, they will save you lots of time keeping your windshield visible. If your car comes equipped with them, check them!

4. Washer fluid.

If you live in or are visiting somewhere that has temperatures are below freezing, water won’t be a good substitute for washer fluid. Most washer fluid is designed to freeze at a much lower temperature than water, and also is better at breaking up snow and salt on your windshield. Of all the things on this list, washer fluid is both the fastest and cheapest fix, so be sure to change your fluid!

5. Be prepared for emergencies.

Though you never want to break down, it is always best to be prepared in case you do. A winter emergency car pack should have things like blankets, non-perishable food, a first aid kit, and warning markers. Portable phone charge-packs are also useful so your cellphone can stay on even when the car cannot.

6. Have your battery tested.

Cold weather is a dangerous time to have an old battery. Have your battery tested by a professional to see if the battery is healty enough to take on a long trip. If not, consider replacement.

7. Consider an oil change.

Consider how long the trip is, in miles, and compare to where you are in your oil’s life. If you think you’ll pass your vehicle’s “milage due” for an oil change, it may be best to do it before you leave.