All new cars and light trucks since 2008 have come equipped with a tire pressure monitoring system. The TPMS system detects when a tire becomes under-inflated and lights up a warning light on the dash.
So, what’s the big deal? Well, under-inflated tires can be a real safety concern. First, they don’t handle properly and that can lead to an accident. Second, under-inflated tires can overheat and cause the tire to come apart, which can also lead to an accident.
Government regulations requiring TPMS systems aim to reduce accidents and save lives: A very worthy goal. There are also positive environmental effects because under-inflated tires are fuel wasters – you lose 1% of your fuel economy for every 3 pounds of pressure below ideal. So proper tire inflation can save you a tank of gas a year. And your tires last longer so you won’t have to replace them as often.
There are two kinds of TPMS systems. So-called direct systems have a battery powered sensor in each wheel that measures tire pressure. The sensor sends a signal to a receiver that illuminates the warning light if pressure is low on a tire.
Indirect systems use a computer program to detect under-inflation by measuring wheel rotation speeds and other data.
You’ll have to replace TPMS parts as they wear out. Obviously, the batteries in the sensors will die someday. Road salt and grime can damage sensors too. The system needs to be reset when you rotate or change your tires.
Because the TPMS system is so important to your safety, you should make the necessary repairs when needed. And remember, TPMS is no substitute for regularly checking your tire pressure– at least once a month.
The moment someone invented headlights that had a high-beam and a low-beam, they also invented a problem. That problem was what happens when you meet someone on the road going the other way who forgets to switch off their high-beams?
We've all had it happen, of course. All you can do is look to the right edge of the road and try to avoid looking directly into the offender's headlights. We want to have high-beams available for the simple reason that they can improve safety when they're used correctly. They allow drivers more reaction time since they can see farther down the road. So, what about a way to automatically have your vehicle switch off your high beams when another vehicle is approaching?
Bingo! The automatic high beam dimmer! Engineers started working on this way back in the 1950s. One automaker came up with an odd-looking device that mounted on the dash. It had a phototube in it and, when it was hit by light, it would activate a mechanism that switched headlights from high- to low-beam. The problem was, it didn't work all that well when it mistook a lot of other lights for oncoming cars.
But steadily, technology improved, and computers were a game changer. The latest automatic high beam dimmers work very well. They combine a forward-looking camera in the rearview mirror with a computer to analyze lights ahead of the vehicle. The computer can distinguish between oncoming vehicles, reflections off street signs, taillights, ambient city lights, and street lights — a big improvement.
Engineers are also working on a split beam that would be able to selectively illuminate the road in front of your vehicle and block a portion of the light from reaching the oncoming driver's eyes.
If you have a burned-out headlight or are noticing that your headlights are dimming, call us to set up an appointment, so we can replace your headlamps to restore your night vision.
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.