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!

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!

Inspection Extension: The Break You Shouldn’t Take

The North Carolina General Assembly has granted a six month extension of “any credential that expires on or after March 1, 2020, and before August 1, 2020.” That means you have six more months before your car inspection and registration are due – a break for those who were sheltering in place and working from home.

We recommend, however, that you not take this break.

Safety Doesn’t Need a Break. The inspection you are required to get each year is called a ‘safety’ inspection because it truly does help to keep you, your vehicle, and other vehicles safe. When we do an inspection, we make sure that your car’s headlights, signals, brakes, and tires are working correctly. If you live in Alamance County, we also do an emissions inspection that helps to keep the air clean. Safety and clean air don’t need a break.

Double Break. You may be getting an extension, but starting in August, everyone is going to be back on the schedule. That means we’ll be double booked for inspections, and double booked fixing any issues we come across. We recommend that you make an appointment now and beat the rush.

If you’re still sheltering at home, we understand! We offer drop off/pick up no-contact service so that you can stay in. If you’re an essential worker with long hours and a busy schedule, we have a drop off service, too. Whatever your situation, we’ll work with you!

To keep your vehicle safe and to avoid the crowds, we’ll give you a break! Call us today – or just drop by to get your vehicle inspected now.

The FYI of Good MPG

Gas prices have been lower than many of us have ever seen, but lately, they’re on their way up again. Last year at this time, $1.75 per gallon would have seemed like a steal, but with so many of us out of work, it’s more important than every to get squeeze every mile possible of a gallon of gas.

Here’s an FYI that will help you…

PSI – or Pressure per Square Inch. The air pressure inside your car’s tires has more to do with fuel economy than you would think. According to, under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by about 0.2%. Keep your tires inflated as recommended – usually between 32 psi to 35 psi. Your owner’s manual and sometimes a sticker in the door will tell you the specifics for your vehicle. Or just come by and ask us. We’ll check it for you, and make sure your tires are inflated properly.

OBD – Your car’s OnBoard Diagnostics is what makes the dreaded ‘check engine’ light come on. It provides a warning when systems in your vehicle aren’t working correctly. It will alert you to failing oxygen sensors or clogged fuel injectors, both of which can lower fuel efficiency.

10W-30. Oil lubricates your car to make it run more smoothly – with less effort from the engine. If you are using the wrong kind of oil, or if your oil or oil filter are dirty, your engine has to work harder, and will use more gasoline. (Read our primer on how to check your oil.)

MPH. We all know that driving at higher speeds causes you to use more fuel. Accelerating too quickly, excessive braking, and even driving too slowly can do the same thing! Your car is designed for best fuel efficiency when it is in a higher gear, so you should try to get the lowest RPM in the highest gear. When stopping and starting, pretend a grandmother is sitting in the front seat drinking tea. Your job is to not spill the tea. 😉

AC. One of the biggest energy hogs in your car is your Air Conditioner. We’re not suggesting that you go without your AC or that you roll down your windows, but early in the morning or late in the evening, you might be able to get by just with your car’s fan.

Got questions? We’re here to help! You can send us an SOS – or just give us a call, so you can get the best ROI from all those $$S that you put into your tank!

Image by andreas160578 from Pixabay.

Checking Your Oil: A Beginner’s Guide

Checking the oil in a vehicle is a basic skill that every driver needs to learn. If you’re reading this and you already know how to check your oil, now’s the perfect time to teach someone in your house who may not know – and that includes your kids!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Rags or paper towels.
  • Your car owner’s manual, which is probably in your glove compartment. Don’t feel bad if you need the owner’s manual to find out where to open the hood!
  • A positive attitude. (You really can do this!)

Check the Oil. Even if you can’t change the oil yourself, you can check the oil level in your vehicle. Some vehicles make it easy, and have electronic oil monitors. If your vehicle does not, you’ll start by turning off the engine, and opening the hood.

Look in the owner’s manual to find where oil ‘dipstick’ is. Pull it out of the tube. When you find it, you’ll see that it’s long and thin and will be coated with oil. Wipe the oil off. Put the dipstick back into the tube, then pull it out again. This time, notice where the oil is coating the stick. Dipsticks will have two marking to indicate high and low. It could be the letters H and L, “MIN” or “MAX”, or simply two small holes. The oil level needs to ‘end’ between these two markings.

If your oil is low, give us a call and we’ll help you find the right kind of oil to add, and give you further guidance. Replace the dipstick in the engine, and make sure it’s tight. Wash your hands, and then give yourself a pat on the back! You’ve just taken the first step toward do it yourself car maintenance.

Off The Road Again

Willie Nelson had it right…most of us just can’t wait to get on the road again. But for now, we’re off. Our cars are thick with pollen, we’re getting three weeks to the gallon, and our clocks are still on Daylight’s Savings Time.

All that inactivity isn’t good for your car. If your car is literally just sitting in your driveway for any reason, there are some things that you need to do to keep it from developing problems.

Drive Out. Take a short drive each week. Even if you just go around the block, this will help keep your battery charged and the engine lubricated. It will also keep your tires from developing flat spots.
Brakes Off. Take off the parking brake. With the rainy spring weather we’re having, moisture can cause brake pads and rotors to stick together. If you must park on a hill, put your car in park, and use blocks for extra protection against rolling.

Cover Up. Invest in a car cover to protect your vehicle from pollen, birds, and all the other things that fall during the spring. Some covers even offer protection from hail damage.
Park Smart. Try to park your car off the street, to protect it from accidents and make it less attractive to thieves. It’s always a good idea to avoid parking spots that are under trees, where falling debris and limbs might cause damage.

Keep It Up. Don’t let up on regular maintenance. Washing and waxing, fluid and belt changes are always important, even if you’re not driving. If you need help with maintenance, let us know. We have drop off and pick up service for your convenience and safety.

It doesn’t require a whole lot of effort to keep your car in good shape, even while it’s idle. This shutdown won’t last forever. You’ll be ready, and you want your car to be ready for when we’re all On the Road Again!

At Home? We’ll Come to You!

In these uncertain times, we’re all doing what we can to help keep each other safe. We know that many of you are staying at home, doing your part to keep COVID-19 from spreading. If your car needs maintenance during this time, we can help!

Home Visits. We’re offering basic services, such as bulb changes, wiper blade replacement, and battery servicing – right in your car or driveway. For other services, we can come, tow in your car to our shop, and then bring it back to the home.

During home visits we can make sure that we minimize any contact to maintain social distancing. First, you can tell us where to find your car key! Then, we’ll cover your seat with paper, and make sure that we sanitize all surfaces thoroughly. When we finish, we’ll wipe off your key and put it back in its hiding place.

After their visit, our technicians will call you about their visit, letting you know what they’ve done and talk to you about their findings. We’ll invoice you by email and you can pay on our website.

Pick Up Service. If your car needs to be inspected or need repairs that can only be done in our shop, we come get your car, tow it back to the shop, service it, and return it to you.

The best part is that if your bill is $50 or over and you are within ten miles of our shop, the service is free. For bills under $50, there is a $10 surcharge. Call us for pricing if you live further away!

Drop Off Service. If you’d prefer, you can bring your car to us and drop it off for service and repair. Simply drop your key off in the dropbox, and we’ll let you know when it is finished.

You already know that your car’s health is our priority. We want to assure you that your health is important to us, too! Call us today or send us a message, and let’s make arrangements to have your car serviced – from a distance.

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