Brown's Alignment Auto Repair

Auto Repair

Describing Car Problems

September 9th, 2014

Accurately Describing Car Problems:

When bringing your vehicle in for a specific problem it is very beneficial to have a detailed and accurate description of how and when the problem occurs. Describing car problems descriptively and accurately can be very helpful.  A good description of the problem can point us in the right direction and potentially reduce diagnostic time.

Example 1: If your car has an unusual noise – You might say – my car is making a noise and I want it fixed. Or you could say – my car has a metallic grinding coming from the left rear when I press the brake.

Example 2: Describing running problem. One description might be that my car runs badly and I am afraid to drive it.  A better description would be: My car runs rough intermittently, usually only when I first start it in the morning while it is idling. It feels like it wants to cut off. As soon as it warms up and I start driving it runs fine and is fine the rest of the day.

When your car starts acting up pay attention to what is happening.
Take note of any symptoms you observe:

Here is a list of items to observe when describing car problems:

When does the problem occur:

  -is the day temperature cold or hot, only rainy days
-is the vehicle engine cold or warmed up
-time of day, first start of the day
-at certain speeds,
-at idle in park, at idle in gear at a stop
-when turning or braking or going over bumps
-only while accelerating
-constantly occurs or intermittently
-No start – was it parked or did it cut off driving?

What type of noises do you hear:

  -metallic
-high pitch, low pitch
-squeal, scrapping, screech, grinding
-clank, thump, thud
-knocking, pinging
-rattle, clicking, chirping, whistling
-rotating noise
-Where is noise coming from:
-from a specific wheel
-front, rear, under car, inside car
-from engine

** Always describe location from the point of view from sitting in the drivers seat. Therefore the driver’s side is the left and the passenger’s side is the right side.

What type of physical actions are occurring:

-vibration, shimmy, shake, bounces, wobble
-drifts, pulls, loose steering, steering off center
-is the entire vehicle doing something or just the engine
-engine flutters, hesitates, coughs, lunges
-low or high idle, wants to stall, engine races
-runs rough always, at idle. when accelerating, going up hill
-changes as speed changes
-no power, sluggish
-transmission will not go, slips, jumps into gear
-hard to start, slow to start
-no start – was it parked or did it cut off driving?
-stalls & restarts after ?? minutes
-unusual smells: burning, oil, gas, coolant, hot, rotten eggs
-decrease in gas mileage
-bounces too much, rides rough

-Low or mushy brake pedal, pulls when braking
-steering is stiff or noisy
-feel it in the steering or coming up through the seat

Fluid observations:

-Fluid leaks – drips, puddles, spray
-color, clearness
-have you been adding any fluids?

Is your car’s dash/ information center telling you anything:

-is the check engine light on
* does it come on & off, is it steady on or is it flashing
-are any other warning lights coming on?
* A few examplesof warning lights are:
ABS – anti lock brakes
VSC – vehicle stability control
ESP – electronic stability control
Traction control
Coolant temperature
Oil light
Battery/alternator/ charging light
**note any digital messages from the information  center

Links:  See our warning lights description page. Click here!

See our printable pdf sheet for making notes about car problems

 

How to Buy a Used Car

August 3rd, 2014

How To Buy a used Car

How to buy a used car. New car sales have been on the rise over the last three years. As a result the market is being flooded with used cars. This a a great time to find and buy a good used / preowned vehicle. There are four main steps to purchasing a used car.

1. Do your homework: Figure out how much you want to spend. Do searches on Craigslist and Carmax to see what is available in your price range. Think about what vehicles you like. Here at Brown’s we believe Honda / Acura are hands down How to buy a used car brown's alignment Brake and auto repair raleighmaking the most reliable cars. The next tier of best cars includes Toyota / Lexus, Subaru and Nissan. What features are important to you? How many seats or how much room do you need? Consider a vehicles gas mileage performance. Look at vehicle safety ratings. Now that you have determined what you are looking for you can do some searches on KellyBlueBook.com and Edmunds.com to determine what a fair price for a specific vehicle is. You will see that car selling prices will vary depending on who the seller is. You should be able to get a better deal from a car owner then from a dealer. Finding an original owner selling a car who has all the maintenance records is usually the optimal way to buy a car. Generally most car dealerships, like Leith, are going to be more reliable then the generic used car lots that are popping up all over the place. You will pay a little more but they are less likely to try and sneak a problem by you.

2. Do your own car inspection: Narrow your search and pick a few cars to go look at. Before you go look at a car call the seller and ask pertinent questions. (see our questionnaire form below)  Test drive the vehicle. This is the car you may drive for the next few years, so if it does not feel comfortable or the controls on the dash seem awkward it probably is not the right car for you. Take a flash light with you. Look inside the car, under the dash and under the hood. Look for mud stains where there should not have been mud. This may be a sign the car was flooded. How to buy a used car Brown's alignment brake and auto repair raleighFlooded cars will usually have electrical problems. Try to look under the car and in the wheel well areas for excessive rust. Rust is bad news and should be a huge red flag that this is not the car for you. Ask the seller questions – Has the car been up north or at the coast for portions of it’s life. Look under the hood for possible fluid leaks. Sometimes you can see through the wheels enough to get an idea if the brakes are worn. Do not forget the tires – get on your knees and look at the whole tire and make sure they are not worn out. Watch for excessive wear on the seats, dash and steering wheel. Also take note on the amount of body dents and scratches. These can all be signs of a vehicle that has had a hard life. Used cars are not new so it is ok if they have a few minor needs if the price is right. If you spot too many red flags then it is time to move on and look at another car.

3. Carfax: So you have gotten through the first two steps and are feeling pretty good about a specific car. Now you should check the vehicle’s history report. There are two companies you can pick from. AutoCheck, which is owned by Experian, and CarFax, who was the first to provide detailed car history reports to consumers by fax in the mid 1980s. Although many used car lots prefer AutoCheck which  is a little cheaper, CarFax reports do offer some advantages. CarFax has proven to be more successful on verifying mileage and reporting how many owners the car has had. It is very important to remember that neither vehicle history reports can provide a guaranteed complete history of a vehicle. Both providers can only provide information that has been recorded or reported. If a car was wrecked and there was no police report and no record of repairs then the accident will not show up on any report. Regardless of what the report says, it’s important to be sure the vehicle has been thoroughly inspected before you buy it.

4. Have the Vehicle professionally inspected: Ok – you had to know this would tie back into Brown’s Alignment somehow – right? So, everything checks out and you are ready to buy THIS car. You should take it to a competent repair shop and have it gone over. Here at Brown’s Alignment we charge $85.00. This pre-purchase inspection How to buy a preowned car brown's alignment brake and auto repair raleighincludes a short test drive and a thorough visual inspection. We check brakes, belts, hoses, tires and fluids. We test and verify the heater and air conditioning work properly. The car is lifted in the air so we can check the suspension and look for any oil or coolant leaks. We also look for frame or body damage – any signs that the vehicle has been wrecked. When we are done, if we found major red flags we may recommend not buying the car. Otherwise, we will write a list of potential problems on your receipt that you can use to negotiate the price of the vehicle with.

Use our printable questionnaire sheet below to collect data on any vehicle you are interested in. Call the seller FIRST and ask questions and fill out the work sheet. You may find this is not the car you want and save yourself a trip somewhere.

Print our How to Buy a Used Car questionnaire Stat Sheet! Click Here!   Used Car Stat Sheet1   USED CAR STAT SHEET PIC

Dogs HATE Hot Cars

June 28th, 2014

Dogs HATE Hot Cars: Summer Heat and your pets

Let’s not beat around the bush. Dogs hate hot cars! NEVER leave your dogs or pets in a hot car or truck. Temperatures inside a vehicle can get dangerously hot in a short period of time. On a hot day temperatures can reach 120 degrees. Once the temperatures rise too high a dog or pet trapped in a hot car can suffer brain damage or even die from heatstroke or suffocation in a matter of minutes.
Leaving a car running with the AC on is risky also. If the AC stops working or the car shuts off your pet could be in danger in minutes. Leaving your car running is just inviting someone to steal it.
From the Humane Society web site:dogs hate hot cars Brown's Alignment Brake and Auto Repair Raleigh
The Greenhouse Effect
It doesn’t have to be that warm outside for a car to become dangerously hot inside. Here are some facts:
**  When it’s 72 degrees Fahrenheit outside, the temperature inside your car can heat up to 116 degrees Fahrenheit within an hour.
**   When it’s 80 degrees Fahrenheit outside, the temperature inside your car can heat up to 99 degrees Fahrenheit within 10      minutes.
**Rolling down the windows has been shown to have little effect on the temperature inside a car.

Heat stress is not the only danger your pet faces when left alone in a car. Many pets are stolen each year
from unattended cars. Many pets prefer to stay home, but if you must take your pet with you in your car, do so safely: Cats should ride in pet carriers, and dogs should ride in travel crates or wear a safety harness. When a pet travels, he should wear two ID tags—one with a home address and one with a destination address.

How to help a pet left in a hot car

  • Take down the car’s make, model and license-plate number.
  • If there are businesses nearby, notify their managers or security guards and ask them to make an announcement to find the car’s owner.
  • If the owner can’t be found, call the non-emergency number of the local police or animal control and wait by the car for them to arrive.

HEATSTROKE : What to look for and What to do

Watch for signs of heatstroke

Extreme temperatures can cause heatstroke. Some signs of heatstroke are heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, seizure, and unconsciousness.

Animals are at particular risk for heat stroke if they are very old, very young, overweight, not conditioned to prolonged exercise, or have heart or respiratory disease. Some breeds of dogs—like boxers, pugs, shih tzus, and other dogs and cats with short muzzles—will have a much harder time breathing in extreme heat.

How to treat a pet suffering from heatstroke

Move your pet into the shade or an air-conditioned area. Apply ice packs or cold towels to her head, neck, and chest or run cool (not cold) water over her. Let her drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes. Take her directly to a veterinarian.

dogs in hot cars Brown's Alignment Brake and Auto Repair Raleigh   The information in this article came from the Humane Society webpages:

   http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/pets_safe_heat_wave.html

What to do if you see a pet in a parked car Humane Society website:

http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/help-dog-in-hot-car.html?credit=web_id353383049

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Automotive Air Conditioning Repair

June 11th, 2014

Automotive Air Conditioning Repair basics:

Your vehicle’s air conditioning system components include an air compressor, evaporator, condenser, orifice tube or expansion valve and a receiver dryer or accumulator. Of course there are A/C lines connecting the various components. You’re A/C system contains a liquid refrigerant and a small amount of oil lubricant. Your air conditioning compressor converts this liquid into a gas. There are different types of refrigerant. Your house uses a different refrigerant then your car. Automotive refrigerant has evolved over the years to be more environmentally friendly. Your vehicle’s A/C system is a closed system and refrigerant is not burned or used up. So, if your air conditioning system does not develop a leak then the refrigerant would last indefinitely. Cool air coming out of the vents for most cars should be between 40 and 60 degrees. Each car requires a specific amount of refrigerant. If the A/C system has too little or too much refrigerant it will not cool properly. The proper way to check a system is to evacuate the system and the recharge it with the proper amount of refrigerant. Here at Brown’s Alignment we are experts in automotive air conditioning repair. When we evacuate and recharge an air conditioning system we also add a dye to help locate the source of a leak.  The dye is a neon yellow dye that is often hard to see. Our technicians use special glasses and a black light to help located the leak. Once the leak is found then we can give you an estimate for repairing the leak.

For more detailed information please visit / click our AIR CONDITIONING page.

If you are interested in the environmental effects of refrigerant on the environment click here for a link to the EPA – Environmental Protection Agency’s page regarding “Motor Vehicle Air Conditioning”.

Snow Broken Windshield Wipers

February 13th, 2014

Raleigh Winter Storm Tip!  

Broken windshield wipers occur during every Raleigh snow storms. Every snow fall browns alignment brake auto repair raleigh snow broken windshield wipers
people leave their wipers in the on or delay position when they shut the car off. The snow and ice builds up and freezes  and holds the wipers in place. So the next time you start your car the wipers are trying to move and can not. Especially if you are warming up the car and have not cleaned the windshield. So, while the car is sitting there warming up the wiper motor is constantly trying to move. The result is broken windshield wipers. The wiper motor is in a bind and burns itself out and it is also possible to damage the wiper arms themselves. Broken windshield wipers are a common repair every year after a snow fall or ice storm here at Brown’s Alignment and Brake Auto Repair in Raleigh.

Solution to Avoid Snow Broken Windshield Wipers

Try putting your wiper straight up in the air when your car is parked at home during a storm. See the picture above.
This will help you remember to make sure the wipers are off and to clean the windshield before you start the car. Also the wipers will not be frozen to the windshield and will be out of your way when cleaning the windshield. You may not want to do this when parked on a city street or parking lot. The exposed wipers may be too tempting to a passerbyers to not damage them.

Read about North Carolina Department of Transportation winter safety tips page and about how the DOT prepares for Raleigh winter weather. Click  here NC DOT.  This page also contains information about that the roads are treated with and how the DOT determines which roads are treated.

Bumped or Hit the Curb in the Snow? Now What?

February 4th, 2014

Hit the Curb? 

browns alignment brake and auto repair front end alignment damage hit the curb

Oh-No! Not the curb again. Better call Brown’s.

Ok – So you bumped or hit  the curb, slid & blasted through a snow bank or skidded across the median. Now is the time to have your tires, wheels and alignment checked.  Do not wait until the bad tire wear shows up on your tires because you hit the curb.  By  the time you see the tire wear you can not reverse the wear damage.     

     An alignment that has been knocked out can make your vehicle pull but very often the car will show no signs that you will feel or see until the bad tire wear shows up a few months after you hit the curb. The only way to be sure how the alignment is fine is to have it checked with our state of the art computer alignment equipment.      

    After you hit the curb a damaged rim or tire will often cause a vibration while driving. A low speed vibration (20-30mph) is a sign of a more severely damaged tire (broken steel belts or bubbles in the sidewall) or a bent rim.  Badly bent suspension parts can also affect steering making the car’s steering erratic.  A high speed vibration (55 mph & up) is an indication of a less severe problem. Possibly a slightly damaged tire, mildly damaged rim or wheel weights that have been knocked off. Having your tires balanced will usually allow us to diagnose your vibration problems.  Checking the alignment will usually turn up any bent suspension parts.

Check out our alignment page for more information. Also, feel free to  “request an estimate” for your vehicle’s alignment. You do not have to  “hit the curb” to need an alignment.  Pot holes & speed bumps can also knock out your alignment. Over a long period of time your vehicle’s suspension wears and begins to sag causing your alignment to be off.

If you have found a pothole or other road hazards you can report them to the North Carolina Department of Transportation. Click NC DOT to go to their contact page and report a road hazard.

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Diagnosing Curious Things Customers Say

January 27th, 2014

Diagnosing beliefs and misconceptions

I have heard that you can unlock your car diagnosing urban legendsusing the car’s key fob and a cell phone.

Example: You lock your keys in your car. You use your cell phone to call your wife on her cell, who has a key fob for your car. You hold the cell phone close to the car while wife holds the spare remote close to her cell phone and pushes unlock.

FALSE!! This does not work. While both remotes and cell phones are basically radios, remotes work on a different frequency then cell phones. Cell phones transmit audio only and on a different frequency then what the remote puts out. This was intriguing enough that we tested the theory anyway and it definitely does not work.

 I need to have the air changed in my tires, remove summer air and put winter air in.

This comes from when the seasons change air temperature affects tire pressure. As temperatures drop so will tire pressure. Somehow some customers got the idea the air in the tires is actually changed out but of course it just a matter of checking and adjusting the pressure. You should check your tire pressure at least once a month. We will do it here at Brown’s Alignment for free.

Driving with my windows down and air conditioning off will save gas.diagnosing common beliefs

False!! Tests have been done diagnosing this belief and there is no measurable difference, so be comfortable and use your air conditioning with a clean conscience. Driving with the windows down causes more wind drag which off sets any savings from not using the AC.

 

Diagnosing Driving Problems & Noises

My car cut off driving down the road and will not restart.

Once or twice a year we have a car towed in only to discover it has no gasoline. Oops!  When Diagnosing a no start or cut off driving problem it is always best to check the gasoline first.

I have a rattle from the rear of my car and it seems to get worse over bumps.

diagnosing car noises junk in my trunk

What do you mean the noise is coming from the junk in my trunk?

While diagnosing for noise we test drove the car and put it on the lift to check the suspension. We did hear the noise but found no physical problems. We opened the trunk and found a small open metal tool box full of tools. We removed the tool box and test drove the car and the noise was gone. This similar scenario has happened many times over the years with varying noises and different type things in the back of vehicles. Some classic noise makers include: tools, loose spare tire, a push lawn mower, dishes and anything else that can rattle or thump around.

I have a whistle noise at 52 mph.

This noise was a very loud whistle and it only occurred at 52 – 54 mph. After much investigation  and diagnosing we found a piece of outside door / window molding on the passenger’s side was pealing up. It was only pealed up for about 1.5 inches and for some unknown reason it vibrated just right at 52 mph and started whistling like crazy.

 

Diagnosing customer terminology

Cadillac Converter

What they mean to say is actually a catalytic converter.  The catalytic converter is part of the exhaust and helps to convert carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide. Which means less air pollution.

I need new rotaries.

Here the customer is referring to brake rotors. Rotors are usually replaced when they are damaged or have become warped causing the brakes to vibrate.

Make your car last 200,000 miles!

January 27th, 2014

First and most important if you want your car last 200,000 miles is regular maintenance. Following the manufacture’s maintenance schedule is a good place to start. At Brown’s Alignment we can help you determine what your car really needs and also bypass unnecessary services. Coming in for regular oil services and tire rotations gives us a chance to check your car over for any potential problems. Most manufactures recommend servicing your car every 3 to 5,000 miles. Tests have shown over and over again that cars that are serviced regularly hold up better and last longer than cars that are neglected.

On your way to helping your car last 200,000 miles

In between your visits to the shop you should do your own mini inspections. Once per week give your car a once over. Check your engine oil, the car must be on level ground. We will be glad to show you how to check your oil if you do not know how. Check that all the lights are working. (This step might save you getting a ticket). Make sure your wipers are not splitting or cracking. Ideally check your tire pressure or at least give your tires an eyeball test. Look at the ground below were your car is normally parked for any signs of fluid leaks. All this should take less than 5 minutes and could save you some headaches like being strand on the side of the road. Problems that are neglected often end up costing more money than they would have if they had been taken care of right away.
The next part of your job is to be aware of how your car sounds, drives and smells. Sometimes it is a good idea to turn off the music and just listen as you drive. Be on the lookout for any unusual noises. Noises to listen for include: squeal, screech, whistle, squeak, grinding, rough metal on metal, bump, thump, clunk, etc.. How is your car riding? Is it bouncy, jerking, vibrating, pulsating, sputtering, coughing or dragging? Also, do not forget about smells. Bad smells include: hot, burning type smells and coolant has a sweet smell. Any time you can catch a problem in its infancy it can only help save you time and money. Remember you goal is to last 200,000 miles or more!

**Note: The more information you can provide to you repair shop about how, what and when a specific problem occurs the better chance they have to find and resolve the issue quickly.

When it is time for service and or repair use only quality parts and fluids that meet your car manufacture’s specifications. See our services page.

Keep your car clean. The environment dishes out a lot of abuse while your car is trying to last 200,000 miles. Regular baths will keep salt and environmental hazards from building up on the car’s paint and undercarriage. Salt causes horrible rust issues with the suspension and brake systems. It shortens component’s life spans and adds to labor times when repairs are done. Keeping the paint clean and waxed will help it last longer and fade less. Dirty carpet and seats will wear out faster. There is also a psychological connection between keeping your car clean and also wanting to keep it running well.

Lastly, taking off slowly , slowing down and turning easy will greatly reduce wear and tear on your car. Aggressively racing from stop to stop type driving is hard on your engine and transmission and will reduce the life of your tires and brake pads. Try to avoid holding your steering all the way right or left for more than a few seconds as this can lead to power steering pump damage. If you want you car to be  your companion and last 200,000 miles you need to be nice to it.