Are You Ready For Your Road Trip?!

There’s a collective excitement across the United States. Travel is back! If you’ve got a road trip on your calendar, now’s the time to get your vehicle road trip ready – including making an appointment with us.

Spare Tire. Make sure that your spare tire works – and that the kit is complete. If you don’t know how to change a tire, it’s a good idea to learn how!

Car Emergency Kit. Flares, jumper cables or a battery charger, and a gallon of water are essential to take with you on your trip.

Enough Cords to power your devices. Since your Ipads, cell phones, ear buds, and your cooler all need to be charged, you may need to invest in a dual USB car adapter or even a separate power bank.

First Aid Kit. A basic first aid kit should include Benadryl, pain relievers, meds for motion sickness and nausea, anti itch cream, and items for wound care.

Bathroom Kit. We all know that public restrooms aren’t always equipped. Tissues, Anti-Bacterial wipes, and hand sanitizer will help you for that unsavory toilet in the back of nowhere.

Water and Snacks. You’ll save a lot of money if you stock up on snacks before you get to the gas station. A bottle of frozen water can be used as an icepack – and nowadays most hotels have a refrigerator in the room.

Flashlight. Whether you need it to peer under the hood of your car, or to find the key for that late night Air BnB entry, you need a flashlight.

Of course the biggest thing you need to take on a road trip is the peace of mind that comes from letting us check over your vehicle before you go. We’ll make sure the battery and lights and cables and fluids and tires and everything else are ready for your trip. That will let you have more time to figure out what snacks to take!

What’s That Drip Under My Car?

Puddles of fluid under a car can be a sign that something ominous is happening in your engine. It can also be absolutely nothing to be worried about at all. How do you know when to panic, when to call Norris Automotive😉 , or when to casually walk on by?

Brake fluid. A medium thick, oily yellowish substance under your vehicle could be brake fluid. Your brakes depend on brake fluid to stop your car, and a leak is a huge safety hazard. If you think your brakes might be leaking fluid, you should not drive it at all. Have it towed to us for a repair.

Gasoline. The good thing about a gas leak is that you’re going to be able to identify it because of the smell. You may have a fuel pump issue, or you might have a hole in your gas tank. Both of these are easy repairs. Don’t worry, a gas leak isn’t going to cause an explosion right away, but you do need to get your vehicle to us as soon as you can.

Antifreeze. There is a very distinctive smell to antifreeze. You’ve smelled it walking past cars in parking lots and known that someone had a radiator issue. Leaks will usually show up at the front of the car, and will leave a greenish puddle that feels slimy and smells sweet. Antifreeze is extremely toxic to pets, and although there is an additive in antifreeze that designed to make it less attractive to dogs and cats, you shouldn’t take a chance. Clean up any antifreeze as soon as you notice it. Then check your radiator overflow tank. If it’s empty, you’ve found your leak.

Since antifreeze keeps your car cool, you don’t want to let it get low. Otherwise you may find yourself stranded on the side of the road with an overheated – and possibly ruined – engine.

Oil. It’s very common to see oil under a car. It’s thick, and usually is dark brown or even black, although if you’ve recently had an oil change, it could be amber in color. Oil leaks can come from many areas under your car, because it is what lubricates the engine. It’s crucial to keep too much from leaking out, but usually a few drips won’t bother anything. If you’ve been seeing more frequent leaks, let us know when you bring your car in for service.

Transmission Fluid. A puddle that is red and slick is probably transmission fluid. Often a leak is from something as simple as a leak in the pan or drain plug, but there could also be more serious issues. While a slow leak isn’t going to cause immediate issues, you need to find and fix the source of the problem as soon as you kind.

Washer Fluid. Blue, orange, or green, windshield wiper fluid feels a bit like windex, which is no surprise considering its job. If you notice it’s leaking, check to see if there is a leak in the tubes or the reservoir that are near your wipers. Windshield wiper fluid is especially important during the nasty pollen season of Southern spring, but a leak isn’t a danger to your engine.

Water. If the weather is hot outside, there’s a good chance that the condensation from your air conditioner is creating that puddle of just plain old water. Don’t sweat it! You’re in the clear on this one.

Whether you’re in the clear or spot one of those ominous leaks, at Norris we’re here to help you with all of your drips and leaks and squeaks. Give us a call today and schedule your vehicle repair, maintenance, or inspection!

Spring Pollen and Your Car’s Air Filters

Spring brings a lot of good things – flowers, gardens, warmer weather, and outdoor living. For those of us who live in North Carolina, spring also brings a haze of yellow pollen.

Pollen doesn’t just build up on our vehicles’ exterior, it also can clog the air filters that are designed to keep clean air flowing into your engine – and into the interior of your car.

Pollen in Your Engine’s Lungs. Your engine’s air filter cleans the air, blocking dirt, debris, and pollen that comes into the engine. A filter that is dirty or clogged can make your engine work harder than it needs to. Your air filter needs to be changed regularly, but during pollen season it is especially important.

Pollen in Your Lungs. You may not realize that your vehicle also has an air filter for your cabin. It cleans the air as it goes through your car’s HVAC system, so it directly affects the quality of air that you breathe. If you’ve noticed a bad smell in your car, if you hear a whistling sound, or if your air flow is weak,replacing the air filter may do the trick. During spring, pollen can really build up, so it’s a good idea to make sure your filter is clean.

Replacing air filters is an easy, do it yourself job, but we can also do it for you. We’ll check your filters, and let you know if they need attention. Bring your vehicle to us, and you can breathe easier – in more ways than one.

Finding Sense in Your Oxygen Sensor

Oxygen sensors monitor how much oxygen is in your car’s exhaust. Most cars have at least two – one in front of the catalytic converter – to regulate fuel supply, and one after it – to measure its efficiency.

Two Sensors Worth. Oxygen sensors monitor how much oxygen is in your car’s exhaust. Most cars have at least two – one in front of the catalytic converter – to regulate fuel supply, and one after it – to measure its efficiency.

Using Your Smart Sensor. The O2 sensor compares the level of oxygen in the sensor to the outside air. If levels of oxygen are too high or low in the exhaust, your engine will automatically make adjustments. So yes, your oxygen sensor is smarter than a fifth grader.

That’s Not Good Sensor. The O2 sensors in most vehicles will last for about 100,000 miles, but they do eventually go bad. The extremely hot exhaust that runs through the sensors is full of chemicals. Contaminated fuel and damaged engines can further shorten the life of an O2 sensor.

Have you Lost Your Sensor? An OBD2 reader is the best way to find out if your oxygen sensor is going bad, but there are other hints along the way:

Check engine light.
Black smoke in the tailpipe.
Sluggish engine.
Reduced gas mileage.

New Sensors. Replacing an oxygen sensor is not hard, but you can do damage if it’s not done properly. The best way is to bring your vehicle in to us, and let us take care of it for you! Testing the O2 sensor is done during your annual car inspection, so we can let you know early if it’s time to replace it.

There is a lot of good sense involved in maintaining your car’s engine, and O2 sensors are just part of the equation. Bring your vehicle to us, and let us help you keep it in the best condition possible. If you think about it, it’s the most sensible thing to do.

Also – fun fact – One time we were in a car so high up on a mountain (about 8000 feet above sea level – straight up) that the oxygen sensor reading was not valid because there was not a lot of oxygen in the air. The car was really sluggish as a result. It was so strange.

Breaking Down Anti-Lock Brakes

Almost all modern vehicles have an Anti-Lock Braking System, commonly known as an ABS. It’s a safety measure that has greatly helped reduce the number of crashes in cars since their use became widespread. But how do anti lock brakes help? 

Brakes on That Banana Bike. You can see a brake working on a bicycle. You press the brake pedal, brake pads press down and stop the wheels from rotating. As you reduce speed, friction between the tires and the road makes the bike slow down. The same principle applies on your car.

Boring Physics Lesson. Wheels have two kinds of velocity – rotational and translational (a fancy word for going forward). These two forces work together, and balance each other. When you turn the front wheels, your car turns, too. Imagine, though, that it does not. Suppose you make a hard left turn, but your car continues to go forward. In this case, your tires are turned to the left, so they won’t roll; they’ll just drag along at an angle.

The only force that safely stops a car is friction, and when your car slides – like in the scenario above – there’s not a lot of friction.

Slip Sliding Away. This out of control sliding is what can happen when you brake. If your tires stop rolling, the vehicle will lose traction and keep sliding even when you turn the wheel and steer.  

Stopping the Skid. Back in the day, new drivers were taught to pump the brakes when they were in a skid situation. Pumping the brakes stopped the braking just before the moment of the skid – over and over with each pump. This increased the friction for just long enough to keep traction on the road.

Anti-lock Brakes Break Out. Anti-lock Braking Systems work on this same principle, but it happens automatically. Sensors on the wheels monitor speed, and when it detects locking, it essentially pumps the brakes, releasing and then reapplying the brakes many times per second. The pumping makes the wheels almost stop – but not quite. 

Practice Skidding. Don’t be surprised at the way that your ABS feels and acts. Give it a spin (pun intended) under controlled circumstances. Go to an empty parking lot (church parking lots are great during weekdays) and build up a bit of speed. Then, slam on the brakes. Do NOT pump. You’ll notice an unusual sound and you’ll feel the brake pedal vibrating. 

The braking system is one of the most important parts of your car. You and your family’s safety depends on it. We have years of experience with all types of braking systems. If you have questions or concerns about your ABS, we’re here to help! 

Image by Gerald Oswald from Pixabay

Snow Mobile: How to Drive in Frozen Weather

Since we don’t get a lot of winter weather here in Alamance County, we don’t get much practice driving on ice and in snow. Before you go slip sliding away in the storm, memorize these tips on staying mobile when the roads are frozen:

  1. Drive Smoothly. Drive like you have a full cup of really hot chocolate in your lap. In order to not get scalded, you have to drive very slowly and smoothly, with no fast turns, stops, or accelerations.
  2. Stop Earlier Than Usual. In driver’s ed you were taught to double the stopping distance if the road is wet. If you’re driving in snow, you need to triple the distance. If there is ice, stop four times earlier than you ordinarily would. Brake SLOWWWLY. You should also be alert for other cars that might not stop in time, especially oncoming cars or those at crossroads. Being t-boned in the ice is a chilling prospect!
  3. Heed the Dash Warning. If you have a newer car, you’ll have a stability control system warning in your dashboard. It’s a car with squiggly lines behind it. If this is lit in your car, your car has lost traction! Ease up on the accelerator until your vehicle regains its grip.
  4. Steer into a Skid. If you go into a skid, turn your wheel in the direction you are sliding until you feel that you have traction again. If your back wheels are sliding to the right, for example, turn your wheel to the right. Then, slowly turn back in the direction you want to go. Pro tip: Look where you want to go.

Whether you’re rooting for snow, or hoping that the Arctic weather stays where it belongs, the truth is that there may be a time that you will need to drive on the ice. Keep these tips in mind so that your and your vehicle will stay safe – and mobile – no matter what!

Hear That? Car Noises to Worry About

Many of us are able to identify which vehicle is driving up in our driveway, just by the sound. If there is something that sounds different, it often means your car is telling you that have a problem Learn about the car noises that are urgent cries for help.

Screech! When you hear a loud squeal or screech coming from the engine itself, it is probably a belt. The serpentine belt is what makes all your car’s major systems work. When it squeals, it could be about to break, and if it does, you’ll be stranded.
What Your Car is Saying: Bring your car to us as soon as possible.

Rattle. If you hear a loud rattle from under your car, it could mean you have an issue with your exhaust system. There could be a system misalignment, a loose or damaged bracket, or something touching the exhaust pipe.
What Your Car is Saying: Schedule a visit so we can get this fixed.

Grrrrng. It’s no surprise that the metallic grinding sound when you brake is an issue with your brakes. It’s usually your brake pads, which means that your car won’t stop properly. The best course of action is to have your brakes checked regularly when you come in for a tune up with us.
What Your Car is Saying: Take your car to Norris as soon as possible.

Tickticktick! Thankfully, that ticking noise you hear when you’re stopped is not a bomb, but it could signal impending doom. The problem could be one of many – like low oil, issues with pistons or valves, or rods knocking.
What Your Car is Saying: Schedule a visit so we can get this fixed.

Clunk! Your suspension system should somewhat even out bumps and pot holes, but if you hear a clunking noise, you need to get it checked out. It might be a loose nut or dried out bushing. It could be that you need to replace your shocks.
What Your Car is Saying: Schedule a visit so we can get this fixed.

Clack! If you hear a clicking noise while turning your front wheel drive vehicle, you probably have damaged or worn CV joints. Like your ankle is attached to your leg, CV joints are attached to the end of your axle shaft, giving it flexibility. If you hear this noise, you probably will need to replace the CV joints. If you don’t, one of them might break, leaving you stranded – often in the middle of an intersection.
What Your Car is Saying: Schedule a visit ASAP so we can get this fixed before it breaks.

Whatever noise you’re hearing, give us a call. We promise we’ll hear the phone ring and get you an appointment scheduled so that the only noise in your engine will be the hum of it working properly!

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

Starting Things Up Right with Your Battery

What do a television remote, a hearing aid, and your car have in common? They all need a battery! Your car’s engine, lights, radio, and computer system are all powered by a 12 volt lead acid battery. The electricity is produced by a chemical reaction between the lead and the acid.

Getting Things Started. You may be surprised to find that a battery really only starts your vehicle. When you turn on your car, the battery gives an initial jolt of electricity that fires up your engine. When your engine is on, the alternator makes all the electricity that your car needs. The alternator also keeps your battery charged…most of the time.

Hearing that Click. Most people recognize the ‘click’ sound that a dead battery makes. A battery goes dead for many reasons, including:

  • A drain from lights or other devices that don’t turn off when the engine does.
  • A poorly maintained or weak battery.
  • Loose or corroded battery connections.
  • Extreme temperatures.
  • If your battery is dead, you’ll need to recharge it with a battery charger, or by jump starting your car.

Keeping Things Going. Car batteries generally need to be replaced every 3-5 years, but in the meantime, they need to be maintained. The battery terminals need to be kept clean, and the connections tight. You need to make sure there isn’t a drain on your battery when the car is off. Your car should be driven regularly.

If you have questions about your battery, or if you want us to make sure that it is working as it should, give us a call, or drop by. We’ll check the voltage, check your connections, and look for other issues. From the battery to the exhaust system, our goal is to make sure your vehicle reliably and safely gets you where you are going.

Read How to Care for Your Car Battery.

Fun Fact: Your lead acid battery has six cells. When your battery is fully charged, each cell produces 2.1 volts. If you do the math, a 12 volt battery a misnomer – it really is a 12.6-volt battery!

How to Care for Your Battery

The modern 12 volt lead acid battery usually doesn’t require much maintenance, but that doesn’t mean that you should ignore it completely. Here are a few things that you can do to make your battery have a long life.

Drive your car! Your car’s alternator recharges your battery as you drive. If you don’t drive often, or don’t drive far enough, you won’t have enough recharging time to refill the battery.

Don’t use your battery when the car isn’t running. Don’t leave your lights on, including the interior and trunk lights. Don’t listen to music or let your kids watch videos in the back.

Try to keep your car from getting too hot in the summer. Park under a tree or in a parking garage to keep the direct rays of the sun off your car hood.

Ask us about other ways to help your battery. We might recommend other accessories that will reduce physical wear and tear.

With good care, most batteries will last for about four years. At some point, even the best maintained batteries will finally fail. Here are some common warning signs of a battery that is about to die.

  • Corrosion on the battery case or posts.
  • A slower start to the engine.
  • A sulfuric, rotten egg smell.
  • Cracks in the battery case.

If you think your battery is wearing out, drop by. We can help you determine if your battery simply needs maintenance or needs to be replaced.

Related Post: Starting Things Up Right With Your Battery

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

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