Driving To Grandmother’s House?

Lots of us are headed to Grandmother’s house this holiday season. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, even more of us than usual are choosing to drive instead of fly. If you’re among those who are planning a road trip, make sure that your vehicle is ready for the trek.

going to grandmas

Check the tires. First, make sure your tires aren’t worn down too much. A rule of thumb is to take a penny and insert it into the tread. If you can see the top of Abraham Lincoln’s head, you probably need to get new tires. You also need to check the tire pressure, and make sure it meets the manufacturer’s recommendation for this time of year.

Check the spare tire. Make sure you have a spare tire and jack! There are several different kinds of spare tires, and some are only designed to get you to the next repair station. Whichever type you have, now’s a good time to learn how to change a tire.

Check the Battery, Belts, and Hoses. Make sure the battery connection is tight and that there is no corrosion on it. Take a look at the belts and hoses and make sure you don’t see any obvious fraying or holes.

Check your Lights. Turn on the lights, and make sure the high beam and low beams are working. Have someone make sure that your brake lights come on when you press on the brake pedal. Finally, check that the turn signals are blinking properly.

Check the Fluids. Check your oil. See if you have the proper amount of antifreeze and brake fluid. Make sure you have enough windshield wiper fluid. And – fill up the car with gasoline, too!

Check the Brakes. If you hear a grating or squealing noise when you stop, then you need to have a professional get your car’s braking system in order.

Of course, if you would prefer, you can just bring your vehicle in to us and we’ll check everything for you. And this holiday season, our holiday gift to you (and Grandmother!) is that we’ll do the pre-travel check for free!*

Don’t let an issue with your car keep you from getting to Grandmother’s house in time for turkey and fixings. Drop by to see us, and we’ll make sure that your car will go over the river and through the woods safely and dependably.

*There is a charge for parts and fluids, and any labor other than our initial inspection.

Image by klimkin from Pixabay

Muffling Your Car’s Noise With…a Muffler

Your exhaust system has three parts. It starts with the exhaust manifold, which filters gases from the engine itself. The next part is the catalytic converter, which changes those toxic gases into nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and water.

The last part of the exhaust system is the muffler. The pistons and valves in your engine are very loud. Like the name implies, a muffler is designed to muffle these noises. There are several types, but all of them are designed to cancel out the sound waves that are created by the engine by sending them through a series of chambers. After the muffler, the exhaust gases and much lower sounds exit the car through the tailpipe.

Mufflers usually last about six years. If you usually drive where there is a lot of salt on the road, over rough roads, or in an area that has a lot of speed bumps, your muffler may wear out faster. Unsurprisingly, the most obvious sign that your muffler has an issue is that your engine will sound louder. You may also smell exhaust fumes while waiting for a stop light. If this is the case, you need to get your muffler checked immediately, because your exhaust contains poisonous carbon monoxide.

When we give your car a check up, we’ll check your car from front to back, top to bottom, inside and out. That includes the muffler. Our goal is to keep your vehicle in the best condition so you will always be able to depend on it.

Is Your Antifreeze Ready for a Freeze?

Your car needs to be cooled to the correct temperature 365 days per year. To do that, your car has a cooling system, which includes the water pump, radiator, the thermostat, and coolant, which is a mixture of antifreeze and water.

Antifreeze and coolant sound like they would do opposite things, but actually they work together. The antifreeze keeps the coolant from freezing during the cold weather when your car is turned off. The coolant keeps your engine cool while it is running – all year long.

You know that when your engine runs, the combustion and moving parts create heat. Coolant circulates through the engine and absorbs the heat, then goes back to the radiator. The liquid flows through the radiator, which cools it, and then sends it back into the engine.

As we mentioned, the coolant is a mixture of antifreeze and water. It’s mixed at a specific ratio, depending on the brand and type of antifreeze. When the ratio is not correct, the viscosity of your coolant won’t be correct, meaning that you’re putting your vehicle at risk of freezing when the temperatures drop.

Making sure your antifreeze viscosity is correct is one of the things you need to do to get your car or truck ready for colder weather. It’s one of the things we check during a tune up, too.

Give us a call today and schedule your car’s tune up. We’ll make sure your car is ready for anything the road – or the weather – sends your way.

Inspecting Car Inspections in Alamance County

auto inspection

If you live in North Carolina, you have to get your vehicle inspected every year before you can renew your license plate.* A car inspection makes sure that your car is operating safely. In some counties, like Alamance, they must also have an On-Board Diagnostic Emissions inspection to help air quality.

So what happens during an inspection? When we inspect your vehicle, we’ll first drive it into our bay area onto a lift. One of our licensed mechanics will then check the lights, brakes, the steering, tires, horn, the rearview mirror, exhaust system and the windshield wipers. If you have tinted windows, we’ll measure them to make sure they aren’t any darker than 32%.

For the emissions test, we hook your car up to a computer that actually communicates with the DMV, sharing information about various systems on your vehicle. The data is automatically entered into the state vehicle registration database. If the inspections show no issues, you’ll then be able to renew your car tags and pay your property taxes with the DMV.

What happens if you fail an inspection? If your vehicle doesn’t pass inspection, you have 60 days to have the issue fixed and have the failed portion of the inspection redone. You may also qualify for a waiver that will exempt you from the emissions portion.

When it’s time to have your vehicle inspection, bring your car in to us. No appointment is necessary, and you can wait in our comfortable waiting area while we inspect your vehicle. You can also use our handy dropoff service, or arrange for us to come get your vehicle from your home or workplace. Our mechanics will perform the inspection, talk to you about the repairs, and get you back on the road in no time!

*If your vehicle is more than 35 years old, it is exempt.

Celebrate National Tune Up Day

It’s not exactly a federal holiday, but September 25 is National Tune-Up day. If your vehicle hasn’t had a tune up lately, we think you should celebrate the day by scheduling a tune up with us!

During a tune up, we will:

  • Check the ignition system, including your battery, ignitions coils, distributor, wiring, and spark plugs.
  • Replace your spark plugs as needed. Once the spark plugs wear out, your engine won’t fire properly to burn fuel efficiently, which can damage your catalytic converter.
  • Change the engine air filter, keeping dirt and other debris from getting into your engine.
  • Perform a fuel system cleaning to remove and fuel deposits that cause engine hesitation, loss of power, and poor fuel economy.
  • Assess your car’s overall health, assessing it for breaks, leaks, and other issues.

We’ll also perform seasonal checks – like checking your antifreeze to make sure it has enough viscosity to keep your radiator from freezing.

Give your car or truck the gift of a tune up – and you’ll find that you’re really giving yourself the gift of knowing that your vehicle will give you safe and efficient transportation – wherever you are going.

The Exhaust Manifold – Keeping the Air Clean

It’s not a secret that engines can create a lot of pollution. Modern vehicles, however, do a lot to keep emissions under control, helping to reduce what is released into the environment. To accomplish this, there’s a lot that goes on between the engine and your exhaust pipe.

One of the first pieces of the system is the exhaust manifold. It’s attached right on the cylinder head, and its job is to direct exhaust gases from the engine’s cylinders to the next part of the exhaust system, the catalytic converter.

Manifold Problems. A leaky exhaust manifold can cause a lot of problems, especially if the leak is close to the engine. It can cause your oxygen sensor or the EGR valve to malfunction. It can upset the air/fuel balance. It can cause significant damage to your catalytic converter if the system detects that it is running lean.

You may also notice that your engine is making odd noises or you have a burning smell from the engine bay. Of course, one of the biggest indicators of a problem is your check engine light – or a failed inspection.

If you do have a leaky manifold, we’ll remove the old and replace it with new. It’s one of the ‘manifold’ things we do here at Norris Automotive.

Catalytic Converters – a Catalyst that Converts

catalytic converters

A catalytic converter is the second part of the exhaust system in your engine. Located right after the exhaust manifold, and before your muffler, it’s job is to filter pollutants and noise that would otherwise be released into the air.

It’s a Catalyst. In high school science you learned that a ‘catalyst’ speeds up a chemical reaction. A catalytic converter works as a catalyst to reduce the poisonous gases into gases that are less toxic. The inside of the catalytic converter is made of some expensive metals, like platinum, palladium, rhodium, and sometimes even gold. These are arranged like a honeycomb to maximize the surface area for the gases to flow over.

It’s a Converter. As the gases flow into the catalytic converter, they go across the metals, making chemical reactions happen. The first one removes oxygen from the nitrogen oxide, converting it into nitrogen and oxygen. The second one adds oxygen to carbon monoxide, turning into carbon dioxide and water.

If you feel your engine is sluggish, has dark exhaust, or exhaust that smells like rotten eggs, you may have an issue with your catalytic converter. Come on in and let us be the catalyst that converts your problem back into a smooth ride!

catalytic converters

Fun Facts

Fun Fact 1. Catalytic Converters are prime targets for thieves because they contain precious metals.

Fun Fact 2. Gas with lead will clog a catalytic converter. That’s why we now have unleaded gas.

Grading Oil

motor oil

Did you know that the “w” in your oil weight means “winter”? Most of us aren’t old enough to remember when it was necessary to switch to a thinner oil in winter, and a thicker one in summer. The switch was necessary because the thickness of an oil (the viscosity) varies with the temperature outside. Oil is thinner when it’s hot, and thicker when it’s cold. It might help to think of molasses. If you heat it up, it pours more quickly.

But your engine needs a consistent viscosity. That’s where motor oil grades steps in.

The Grading System. When you measure viscosity, you’re measuring how fast a liquid flows at 100 degrees Celsius. (You get an A plus if you remember that’s also the boiling point of water.) A higher number means the oil is thicker and will flow more slowly. A lower number is the opposite; it’s thinner and flows more quickly. Again, like molasses.

Fun Fact: Apparently the Egyptians used animal fat to lubricate wheels as early as 1700 BC! https://iselinc.com/brief-history-lubrication/

The Upgrade. In the 1950’s, the Chevron Oil Company developed the first MultiGrade engine oil. This oil has additives that keeps the viscosity of oil almost constant, even when temperature changes. This oil changed everything, pun intended. Now a vehicle only needed one type of oil, no matter the weather.

Interpreting Grades. The Society of Automotive Engineering (SAE) came up with the numerical system for grading motor oil viscosity. Let’s use an oil graded SAE 5w-30 as an example. Remember, the lower number means oil is thinner at low (winter) conditions. The 30 is the rating for how well it performs at high temperatures.

What’s Your Grade? Your engine manufacturer will have a recommendation about what grade oil is best for your vehicle. This might vary if you live in the frigid northern Minnesota or the boiling southern Arizona desert. Since the weather is pretty temperate here in North Carolina, you’re usually fine sticking with what the owner’s manual said.

Of course you can also just ask us. At Norris Automotive, we change a lot of oil, and have seen just about every different scenario. So whether you need 0w-30 or 10w-40, we promise that we’ll give you Grade A service no matter what the season – or the temperature.

Time For A Change – Oil That Is

oil drop

Just like you need your annual physical, your car also needs routine maintenance – and that includes an oil change. Whether your oil light is blinking or that little sticker in the top of your window tells you it’s time, you need to know what the right oil is for your specific car. In general, there are two basic types of oil.

Conventional Oil. If you’ve ever watched the Beverly Hillbillies, you’re familiar with the oil that bubbles out of the ground. This crude oil is pumped directly from the ground as is then refined into the final product that goes into your car’s engine. Before any other oil types were around, your parents and grandparents likely used this type of oil in their vehicles. Most older model cars still use conventional oil. We recommend an oil change around every 3,000 miles, depending on the use of the car. Conventional oil is the cheapest option, but it  doesn’t last as long.

Synthetic Oil. As our automobiles advance, so does our oil. Synthetic oil is made – synthesized – through a chemical process that makes it have the exact molecular structure and properties needed for a particular type engine. Many types of synthetic oil start with purified crude oil, but also include chemically modified petroleum. Synthetic oil performs better and lasts longer in both very cold and very high temperatures.

Since 2016, 7 in 10 new cars are filled using synthetic oil. Because of its complex nature and advanced manufacturing, this type of oil is normally more expensive than conventional oil. Most people find that the protection of synthetic oil is worth the extra cost. It also lasts longer between visits. Normally a vehicle requiring synthetic oil can go 5,000 up to 7,500 miles between changes. There are varying types of synthetic oil and there is even a synthetic blend, which uses a combination of the two.

When you *contact us* to make your appointment for an oil change, our technicians will inquire about the make, model, and mileage of your vehicle. We’ll also ask you whether you mainly drive on the highway or in the city. We’ll then make a recommendation for your oil change. You can also find the manufacturer’s recommendation with a quick search of your automobile owner’s manual.

So if it’s time to change your oil, give us a call. We work on all makes and models and will you have back out on the road in no time! Call us today for your next oil change appointment.

Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay.

The Timing Belt. It’s All In the Timing.

Chemistry, action, and timing make an engine run smoothly. It all starts with a spark that makes gasoline mix with oxygen to make hundreds of tiny explosions that make the engine’s pistons go up and down. The pistons are connected to a crankshaft, which starts the rotation to make your wheels move.

The Right Timing. But none of this will work without timing. For that to happen, a timing belt is ultimately responsible for making sure that the chemistry and motion work together. In most engines, the timing belt is a long piece of rubber with teeth that regulates when the different parts of the engines move. It’s hidden behind a cover to protect it from oil and moisture. A small portion of vehicles with non-interference engines will have a timing chain. The timing belt or chain keeps your engine in sync, keeping it all working together.

Time to Change. A damaged or broken timing belt will cause major engine damage, so it’s important to replace it before you have a problem. For most engines, we recommend you change your timing belt every seven years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first. Timing chains don’t have to be replaced until they actually break, as a broken timing chain will not hurt an engine.

Time to Call Us! Changing the timing belt is an important part of routine car maintenance. Again, your vehicle will have major damage if it’s not changed in time. If this post has made you realize that it’s time to change your timing belt, give us a call. At Norris, we change timing belts all the time. Call and let’s set up a time to change yours!

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