(704) 372-3885 2641 N. Graham St. Charlotte, NC 28206

Learn About Your Car

When all a vehicle’s wheels are lined up exactly with each other, your wheels are in alignment. Hitting a road hazard or even just the normal bumps and bounces of everyday driving can cause your wheels to be out of alignment. This can lead to expensive premature tire and suspension wear.

Here are some alignment basics:

The first angle is called toe: do the wheels point in towards each other or away from each other at the front of the tire.

The next angle is called camber: do the wheels tip in or out at the top.

And finally, there is castor. Castor measures the angle where the front axles attach to the vehicle.

The ideal alignment for your car was designed by its engineers. Alignment service starts with an inspection of the steering and suspension – so see if anything’s bent, broken or worn out. Then the technician will look at tire condition.

From there, the vehicle is put on an alignment rack and an initial alignment reading is taken. The wheels are then aligned to manufacturer’s specifications.

Your owner’s manual probably has a recommendation for how often your alignment should be checked – usually every couple of years. If you suspect an alignment problem, give us a call & get it checked before you suffer expensive tire or suspension damage.

Most Charlotte residents associate turbochargers and superchargers with hot rods and racing. However, the number of everyday cars and trucks coming to Charlotte from the factory with chargers is growing every year. Here's why.

You need three elements for combustion: fuel, oxygen and ignition (spark plug in gasoline engines and compression in diesels). Superchargers and turbochargers deal with the oxygen part of the formula. In the normally aspirated engines Charlotte residents are familiar with, air is just drawn in from the outside by vacuum pressure created as the engine runs. Turbochargers and superchargers compress the air that goes into the engine's combustion chamber, forcing in more oxygen. This forced charge of air allows an engine to make more power than a similarly-sized, normally aspirated engine.

So today we have small 4-cylinder turbocharged engines on Charlotte streets making more power than a full-sized V8 did 20 years ago – and getting far better fuel economy. And the power on turbocharged six and eight cylinder engines is through the roof.

In addition to power and fuel economy, charged engines deliver benefits for Charlotte drivers at higher altitudes. As the air thins with an increase in elevation, there is less oxygen available to burn in the engine, resulting in a significant power loss. Charging forces more air – and oxygen – into the engine, preserving much of the power at altitude. Turbochargers use exhaust from the engine to spin an impeller that compresses the air sent to the engine. Because there is a short time between when you step on the accelerator and the time the exhaust pressure builds up enough to spin the turbo up to speed, there is a short lag in power. To combat this “turbo lag," some use two turbos: a small one that quickly spins up when engine speed is low and a larger one for when the engine is running . Others use a variable vane technology in the impeller to accomplish the same thing.

Superchargers are driven by a belt connected to the engine's crankshaft. There is no lag because charging starts immediately (it doesn't have to wait for exhaust pressure). Superchargers are less efficient for Charlotte residents because they require engine power to run the compressor, whereas turbochargers are powered by “free” exhaust. In both types, the air heats up as it is compressed. In some engines it is necessary to cool the air before it goes into the engine. In those engines, the air passes through what is called an intercooler to bring its temperature down to the proper range. An intercooler is like a small radiator and may be cooled by air flow or by liquid coolant.

Vehicles that have superchargers and turbochargers should always use the fuel grade recommended by their vehicle manufacturer. This is important in charged engines because of the extra pressure as the fuel and air is compressed. Using fuel with too low of an octane rating could lead to premature detonation which can cause damage.

Generally speaking, turbochargers and superchargers do not require regular maintenance. But they do wear like any other part in your vehicle and will eventually need repair or replacement. All of your regular vehicle maintenance should be done on schedule – things like oil changes and transmission service and so on. Feel free to talk to us about any concerns you have and about the next services your vehicle needs.

When asked, most people think they are good at multi-tasking. Scientific studies, however, reveal that only around 2% of the population can truly demonstrate the capacity to effectively multi-task. For the rest of us who are not so biologically wired, no amount of practice can increase our effectiveness at multi-tasking. Turns out, multi-tasking is almost a superpower. Think of fighter pilots: capable of maintaining their orientation in three-dimensional space, performing specific and highly complicated functions while accessing life threatening situations, and coming up with an appropriate response. Admit it – you can’t do that.

Yet when it comes to driving, we seem to think we are very capable of safely operating a motor vehicle with a myriad of distractions. 77% of young adults feel somewhat confident that they can safely text and drive while 55% claim it’s easy to text and drive. Can they possibly be right? Let’s look at some statistics.

Nearly 23% of all accidents in the United States involve cell phones. Every day, 11 people are killed and over 900 are injured in texting-related accidents. In fact, texting while driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than driving intoxicated. Just think back at your own experiences: how many of your “near misses” as a pedestrian or in a vehicle have involved a driver with a cell phone in their hand?

There are three types of driving distractions:

Visual (eyes off the road) Manual (reaching for something or manipulating an object) Cognitive (mind off the task of driving)

Of course, texting or using a cell phone involves all three. Eating, applying make-up, arguing and working on-board features like the stereo and navigation system are all very real distractions. You may be interested to know that hands-free cell calls are not substantially safer than using a handheld phone. Any time you glance away from the road (like looking at a text or incoming phone call) your eyes are off task for at least 5 seconds. At 55 miles per hour you will cover the length of a football field in that time. Would you ever consent to strapping on a blindfold and driving off down the road for that distance?

So, what do you do? First, accept the fact that you are not part of the 2% of all the people on the planet who can truly multi-task (if you are one of the lucky ones you would know by now because your performance does not degrade no matter how many additional tasks are added). Next, don’t EVER drive distracted. Incoming text: it will wait for later. Juicy hamburger: eat it in the parking lot. No exceptions, ever. And don’t accept anything less from drivers of vehicles in which you are a passenger.

Another way to avoid distractions is to keep on top of scheduled maintenance and necessary repairs so that your vehicle itself doesn’t become a distraction. We can help you with that.

There's a little part on your vehicle you may not know about, but when it develops a problem, getting it fixed sooner rather than later can save you a lot of money in the long run. Got your attention now?

This part is called a ball joint boot. Ball joints are part of your suspension and allow your front wheels to move up and down and turn left and right. This boot covers and protects your ball joint.

Your suspension is, of course, exposed to nasty stuff getting kicked up from the road. Stuff like rocks, salt, water, dirt, and chunks of asphalt. If all that debris were constantly hitting your ball joints, they wouldn't last very long. So, someone thought, "Hey, why not include protective ‘boots’ that go over the ball joints?" Great idea. And they work… for a while.

Those boots not only protect against debris but also against heat and friction. So, they must be flexible. In addition to keeping contaminants out of your ball joints, they also keep lubricants in and allow the hot grease to expand. This is vital to make sure metal parts are moving smoothly.

Sometimes the ball joint boots get damaged after constant assault by road junk or temperature extremes. Other times they just get old. Rubber and other flexible materials can eventually just wear out (think of old rubber bands that break because they're brittle from age). A regular suspension inspection will assess the condition of your ball joint boots. When your NAPA AutoCare Service Advisor says there's a problem with one of your ball joint boots, heed the warning. If they have a tear in them and aren't replaced, lubricant can escape the ball joint and debris can get in and start creating a destructive mess.

Also, keep in mind that if a ball joint is bad on one side, the other side might be on the verge of going, too. Replacing both ball joints and ball joint boots at the same times just makes sense.

You wouldn't walk into a different dentist's office every time you needed a tooth looked at. You wouldn't pick out someone at random every time you needed your hair cut. And on Tax Day? You probably wouldn't trust your taxes to a stranger.

There are some professionals for whom you feel your relationship is more than just client and customer. They're almost like friends, and since you know them well after years of going to them, you know the quality of their work and that they have a track record of doing their best for you.

You may not realize it, but the relationship with your automotive service professional should have that personal connection, too. It may take some time to find the one place where the rapport just feels right. But when you do, you know when you walk in the door, and your service advisor greets you with a smile, things are going to be done right. And you'll be confident that they'll only recommend and perform work your vehicle really needs.

Just as with your accountant, lawyer, or person who cuts your hair, the relationship with your auto repair center is a two-way street. The longer we get to know you, the more we understand your needs and expectations of us. And you get to know our work, our professional ethics and the quality of work we do. That mutual trust is something we both value.

Facilities that have been in business for a long time know how important that long-term relationship is. That's why we hire and train professional technicians who take their job and training seriously… but also know the human side of automotive repairs and trust.

So, don't be a stranger. It's a relationship that is a win-win for both of us.