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

Learn About Your Car

Most people 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 drivers 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 the 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.

Owners of 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. Give us a call about any concerns you have and about the next services your vehicle needs.

Your alternator makes electricity to start and run your engine and all the electrical systems in your vehicle. That’s everything from the on-board computers to the turn signals. And of course, there is the entertainment system, seat heaters, power windows, and everything you plug into the power outlets. After your alternator makes enough electricity to do all that, it recharges your battery with what’s left over.

When you constantly have a low or dead battery, the alternator is usually a prime suspect. However, the alternator is just one component of the starting/charging system and a problem with any of the other components could be the actual cause.

In addition to the alternator, the charging/starting system includes the battery, starter, serpentine belt system, and all the electrical cables that connect them. Your technician has a systematic process of testing components and connections to get to the source of your problem.

The initial symptoms determine where to begin the diagnostic process and he follows the procedure until he tracks down the culprit.

For example, diagnostic tests could reveal that the alternator is not generating enough electricity to keep the battery charged. Is the alternator bad? Not necessarily. A worn serpentine belt tensioner could be allowing the belt that spins the alternator to slip. So, the perfectly good alternator is not spinning at the proper speed. The solution is replacing the serpentine belt system – not the alternator.

The good news is that our highly trained technicians can properly diagnose all your vehicle problems and make the necessary repairs to get you back on the road.

Drivers need to be concerned about wheel alignments for two primary reasons: safety and money. When your wheels are out of alignment, they can pull to one side, maybe pretty hard. A moment of inattention could put you into on-coming traffic on a busy street in Charlotte or completely off the road. And a bad alignment will chew up your tires very quickly.

We had one guy in our Charlotte auto service center who said his wheels were a little out of alignment before a family vacation, but he didn't think it was that bad. So he didn't take care of it before he left. A couple of long days of highway driving and his front tires were worn down to the cords. He had to take a half day out of his mountain vacation to find a rural town in NC big enough to have a tire center for replacements.

All four wheels are supposed to be lined up and point in the same direction. Sometimes one or more goes out of alignment and is pulling against the rest of the team. In addition to excessive tire wear, this also hurts fuel economy.

Part of our alignment service is an inspection of the steering and suspension components. Whatever caused the wheels to be knocked out of alignment in the first place may have also damaged important parts. So we want to be sure to replace broken or bent parts as needed. The process corrects alignment of each wheel along three axes (toe, camber and caster) as well as front to rear alignment.

Your owner's manual may have a recommendation for how often alignment should be checked. If not, give us a call & we can let you know. Here are some things that should tell Charlotte drivers that they need an alignment check right away: Your vehicle is pulling to one side, your steering wheel isn't centered, you feel a vibration at speed or you see unusual tire wear.

We are here for all of your automotive needs! Give us a call with any questions or to schedule an appointment.

Question: What are the signs that I need a brake job? Answer:

Signs of brake problems often fall into one of two categories: making noise or a pulsation in the brake pedal. Let's start with the noise.

Most brake pads have an audible brake wear indicator. This is a small piece of metal that rubs on your brake rotor when the brake pads are worn to the point they should be replaced. The noise is a chirp or soft squeal. This noise gives you enough warning to get your brakes serviced while there is still enough brake pad left to enable you to stop safely.

If you ignore the chirp, the sound may change to a grinding noise. That is more serious. It means that the friction material on your brake pad is worn away and metal parts of the brake are grinding against the rotor when you press on the brakes. Obviously, this metal-on-metal means that your brakes aren't stopping very well. It also means that your rotor is being damaged. It may need to be resurfaced or even replaced.

Pedal pulsation is another noticeable problem. When your rotor is not in perfect alignment, it pushes against the brake pads unevenly as you apply the brakes. There could be several reasons for this. The rotor and wheel hub may not be mating well, causing the rotor to be spinning out of vertical alignment. This misalignment can be caused by either the rotor or the hub, or a combination of the two. If this condition persists, the rotor may even start to wear unevenly to the point that its thickness varies, causing an even more noticeable pulsation. This uneven mating of the brake pad and the rotor when braking means less contact and decreased braking power.

We can determine the cause of the misalignment and remedy the problem.

Either unusual brake noise or pedal pulsation are signs that there are brake problems. You should have your service center do a thorough brake inspection and recommend any action necessary to correct the problem.

A regular brake inspection is on every vehicle's recommended list. Give us a call & we can let you know if it's time for a brake inspection.

The function of a fuel filter is pretty self-explanatory. It filters your fuel. The fuel filter is in the fuel line somewhere in between the fuel tank and the engine. Both gas and diesel vehicles use fuel filters.

There’s not a lot of dirt in the fuel supply, but there is enough that you want to screen it out. The problem gets worse the older your vehicle becomes. That’s because dirt, rust and contaminates will settle out of the fuel and onto the bottom of the fuel tank. After a car is five years or older, it can have a fair amount of sediment built up.

That just means that the fuel filter must work harder as your car ages. It’ll get clogged sooner and need to be replaced more often.

A symptom of a clogged fuel filter is that the engine sputters at highway speeds or under hard acceleration. That’s because enough fuel is getting through around town, but when you need more fuel for speed, enough can’t get through the filter. Obviously, that could be dangerous if your car or truck can’t get enough power to get you out of harm’s way.

For just that reason, fuel filters have a bypass valve. When the filter is severely clogged, some fuel can bypass the filter all together. Of course, that means that dirty, unfiltered fuel is getting through to be burned in the engine.

This dirt can then clog and damage your fuel injectors. Now injectors are not cheap to replace, so you don’t want to cause them damage just because you didn’t spend a few bucks to replace a fuel filter.

You know, in a way, the fuel filter can be the poster child for preventive maintenance. It’s a little part, it’s simple and it’s cheap to take care of. But if it’s neglected, it could lead to thousands of dollars of repair bills.