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How to Protect Your Car from Winter Weather

December 20th, 2017

How to Protect Your Car from Winter Weather

Cold winter weather can wreak havoc on your vehicle if you haven’t prepared.

by Rich Ellis

Winter Weather, car, tires, driving safety

Winter Weather

Winter Weather. You can love it, hate it, or simply tolerate it. No matter which camp you fall into, when it comes to winter driving, we all have one thing in common – the need to be prepared. It doesn’t matter if you’re braving snow and sub-freezing Minnesota temperatures or just colder January days in central Florida. There are several steps you can take to protect your vehicle from winter’s damaging toll.

Preventative maintenance is surprisingly easy, and it falls under the categories that matter most in either harsh or mild winter climates – visibility, reliability, and passenger comfort and safety.

Under the Hood

Batteries – A common belief is that winter is hard on batteries. That’s true, but what many people don’t realize is that summer’s heat is actually tougher on batteries, shortening battery life and possibly weakening the battery. Colder temperatures make it harder for engines to start and require a battery that’s delivering the most power it can. So when that first cold front moves in, the weakened battery might not be able to deliver enough power to get your car going. To avoid being stranded this winter, have your battery and charging system tested, and replace the battery approximately every five years, or sooner if indicated by a battery test.

Engine Oil – Cold weather starts can be easier on your engine if you switch to a full-synthetic oil instead of a conventional oil. Synthetic oil flows freer at low temperatures, without requiring any warm-up time, providing crucial and immediate protection to the engine’s moving parts at start up.

Antifreeze – Antifreeze’s name says it all – it prevents the engine’s coolant from freezing. It needs to be checked periodically, however. Begin by testing the antifreeze’s strength with an antifreeze tester, available at any auto parts store, or take it to your mechanic. A test will tell you the lowest temperature to which your engine is protected from freezing. When it’s topped up, be sure your coolant reservoir is filled to the proper level.

Belts and Hoses – Vehicle belts and hoses are also susceptible to winter temperatures. They’re primarily composed of rubber, which decomposes over time and loses flexibility in colder temperatures, making those near the end of their service life more prone to failure in colder temperatures. To prevent this from happening, you or your mechanic can examine the belts for signs of cracking along the belt’s sidewalls or for signs of irregular wear. If you plan on checking the hoses yourself, wait until the engine is cool and then feel along the length of each rubber hose for any soft spots or bulges – signs of impending failure. Even if there aren’t signs of wear, always follow the replacement intervals recommended in the owner’s manual for both belts and hoses.



Winter Weather Visibility

You can’t be a safe driver without seeing where you’re going, and winter weather reduces visibility with less daylight and frozen precipitation.

Windshield – If your wiper blades are more than six months old, consider replacing them. Colder temperatures and ice or snow buildup on windows will speed the demise of old wiper blades. The trend in wiper blades is toward the newer “beam” style blades. They’re a better choice for winter and year round. With beam blades, the spring mechanism is concealed and protected from ice and snow, eliminating the chances of clogging. They also make more contact with the windshield, reducing wiper chatter and delivering a much clearer wipe in any temperature. While you’re at it, don’t forget the rear window wiper and headlight wipers, if your vehicle is equipped with them.

An efficient way to remove frost and light ice, and get your morning commute off to a faster start, is to fill your windshield washer reservoir with a de-icing washer fluid. Not only does it melt precipitation, but it also helps repel dirt and salt from road spray.

For heavier ice and snow, make sure you keep an ice scraper and snow brush handy. For SUV’s and trucks, consider purchasing a long-handled snow brush. It enables you to clear the entire windshield without having to switch sides, or get covered in snow. And, before the first frost, check your front and rear window defrosters to ensure they’re working

Lights – Less daylight means more time driving in the dark. Walk around your vehicle to confirm that all its lights, including turn signals and brake lights, are working. Even if your headlights aren’t burned out, you might want to replace them; headlights dim over time, sometimes by as much as 20 percent, and old headlights don’t include the recent advances in lighting technology that put more light on the road and roadsides, allowing drivers to see further and wider.

Passenger Comfort

Climate Control – Warmth is a necessity during winter travel for both comfort and visibility and it depends on the vehicle’s climate control system. This complex system of a blower motor, blend door and thermostat work in unison to keep passengers warm and windows clear of ice and fogging. Test it now, before you need it.

Floor Mats – Our shoes have a habit of collecting the elements and depositing them on the floors of our cars. If you want to avoid potentially permanent damage to your vehicle carpet, now’s the time to pick up a set of all-weather floor mats. These are easy to clean and help corral the muck and grime.

Spend a little time now with your vehicle to protect it from winter troubles and you’ll avoid spending a lot of time, frustration and money later. You’ll feel better and drive reassured knowing that you’ve done everything you could to prepare your vehicle, protect your investment, and help ensure passengers’ safety and comfort.

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 and 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

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.