What does THAT even mean?

20 08 2013


Hydrophobe (n)

Having no radiating processes;
Applies particularly to certain nerve cells.

When Kia Motors recently announced the 2014 version of their popular model the Cadenza was going to be equipped with hydrophobic windows as a standard option, the room was quiet.  It was as if people wanted to be impressed, but let’s be honest here they likely had no idea what THAT technology actually meant.  They’re not alone, either.  After all, do you understand this level of science?

It’s actually quite fascinating, which is why we wanted to take a few moments to break it down into layman’s terms.  In short, this means the windows of this forthcoming vehicle will have been specially formulated to repel all forms of condensation.  That’s right, think Rain-X, and then imagine this degree of protection being built into the glass that surrounds your vehicle.

This is revolutionary stuff, folks, but is it ready for mass production?  Kia believes so, and from early tests it would appear they might be right.

With all forms of aftermarket products in stores claiming to improve visibility while driving, it’s no surprise somebody decided to capitalize on this cutting edge technology.  As to whether or not it will be worth it, suppose that depends upon the individual and what’s important to them when purchasing a vehicle, as well as how it stands up after years of weather related elements.

To best understand what’s at play here and perhaps draw a visual (besides the photo provided above), let’s take a closer look at the science behind Hydrophobic Effect.  This is a term used by trained professionals to explain the process of “water-fear.”  Yes, you heard us correctly.  Imagine a surface that naturally (or in this case when treated) cannot mix with, dissolve in, or become wet by adding water.  We’ll simply leave it that.  Even though it can be broken down to a much smaller molecular level, we know we’d run the risk of losing you, and ourselves.

So, there you have it… a quick Chemistry lesson, in order to appreciate the attention to detail that some of these vehicle manufacturers tend to have.  It’s been confirmed this feature will be for sale real soon; however, whether or not you’re buying remains to be seen.

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Filters serve a purpose

12 03 2013


It’s that time of year again, where customers begin to notice a slight (or in some cases more significant) decrease in their fuel economy.  In many of these situations it boils down to using their climate control, particularly heat during the winter.  However, there also is one specific culprit often overlooked – filters.

You might think for a moment about the filters you replace in your furnace at home, provided yours is a model that requires attention.  The comfort you feel is made possible because the “elements” and debris are FILTERED out of the air.  The filter systems on vehicles are no different.  It’s simple logic, really.  Imagine any opening where there’s supposed to be a steady flow.  Now, picture impeding that progress with any number of obstacles.  OK, point made.

Filters don’t tend to be an expensive item to maintain.  In fact, they’re quite the contrary and often one of the cheapest parts to monitor.  The payoff can definitely outweigh the cost, let’s put it that way.  To that end, let’s answer the next obvious question – why should you pay attention to filters?

Best reason here, at least as it pertains to fuel and air filters, is that it takes an exact mixture of air and fuel to properly operate an engine.  If that ratio is skewed the vehicle may still run, but not optimally.  Here’s where the fuel economy issue becomes noticeable.  Makes perfect sense why a good majority of peoples’ attention is on fuel consumption, as we’ve started seeing some of the highest average gasoline costs in history.  Given the pinch felt all around the nation, it’s requiring us to think outside the box and focus on the root cause(s) of poor (or less than usual) “miles to the gallon.”

Dirty filters also may cause other systems in your vehicle to not work as designed.  Two of the usual suspects here are spark plugs and the O2 sensor, neither of which will be free of additional symptoms.  Once again, best practice is keeping a close eye on all common wear/tear, so there aren’t related issues.  Doing this will save a lot of money, not to mention add significant peace of mind.

Lastly, filters come in all shapes and sizes.  These range from cylindrical, square, cone, and circular, among others.  Import and domestic vehicles do not necessarily have the same location for filters, which is why it’s always wise to consult your owner’s manual.  If you’re looking for a step up to a higher efficiency filter line, K&N makes some great quality products.

General rule of thumb is to replace your filters at least once annually.  Should you have reason to believe you’re more susceptible to additional elements (construction, dirt roads, inclement weather conditions, etc) you should take notice more often.  Again, the manufacturer of your vehicle will have the recommended time intervals for replacement laid out in your owner’s manual.  (seeing a theme here?)

Sometimes it’s possible to make very inexpensive adjustments/improvements to your vehicle, to keep it in the best possible shape.  Filters tend to fall in this category, which is why we recommend you periodically evaluate the condition of the ones in your vehicle.  Of course, we’ll do this for you as a complimentary service during your next service visit as well.


29 05 2012

With all the acronyms out there it’s no wonder people have a difficult time keeping all of them straight.  Thankfully, TPMS is not brand new technology so there are a number of resources available (now including this blog) to better explain its importance.  Rather than re-invent the wheel, we found NHTSA (National Highway Safety Traffic Administration) and Schrader have done a fine job of illustrating this already, which is why the first part of this entry is going to use information each of them have published, respectively.

“As its name suggests, a Tire Pressure Monitoring System is more than a single part.  In fact, TPMS involves a valve and a sensor, and it’s also important to know that not all TPMS systems are created equal.  There are two kinds of TPMS technology – indirect and direct.”

Indirect TPMS:  approximates tire pressure indirectly by using data from the vehicle’s antilock brake system (ABS)

Direct TPMS:  provides a more accurate calculation of your tire pressure using data gathered directly from a sensor placed inside each tire

Source: 2011 Schrader International, Inc

Regardless of which TPMS technology your vehicle may have, if a tire is found to contain less than 75% its recommended air, an alert signal is illuminated on your vehicle’s dash.  The advantage, if it’s not already obvious, is with Direct TPMS that process happens much more effectively and rapidly.  Another thing to keep in mind is that Indirect TPMS cannot recognize when all four tires are low on pressure simultaneously, which often may be the case if the vehicle isn’t checked on a routine basis.

Flats, blowouts, skids, and longer stopping distances can all be the direct result of driving on under-inflated tires.  New laws required manufacturers to include a TPMS system in all cars and light trucks by 2008.  Obviously, all of this better technology will have an associated cost but the increased safety and effectiveness will far outweigh this small setback.  The costs are partially offset by savings in fuel and tire wear.  The net cost is estimated by the US Government to be between $25 and $100, but more importantly the cost of a life saved is somewhere between 3 to 9 million dollars.

Your safety has always been our primary concern.  In short, keeping your vehicles on the road and protecting your entire family is why we’re in this business.  We want all of you to be accident free, period.  We’ve traditionally provided things like tire rotations, snow tire mounting, and flat tire repairs at a very low cost.  In light of these new systems we’d like to educate and inform you on how some of these processes are now done differently.  Every time a tire is changed: taken off to fix a flat, a new tire installed, a snow tire mounted, etc; our service technician is going to have to deal with the TPMS system.  Even a simple tire rotation will require the monitor to be reprogrammed to the new location of each tire.  When a car battery is disconnected, the TPMS system will need to be reprogrammed.  TPMS sensor batteries will need to be changed and failed parts replaced.

The reason we even call your attention to this is twofold:  (1) update on regulated safety standards  (2) make all of you aware of differences in market value of specific services

Our ASE certified team has been thoroughly trained on various TPMS systems and updated tire-changing techniques.  All of this adds up to additional overhead cost to perform what was once a very inexpensive and routine service for you.  Please keep in mind these changes are due to government mandated safety equipment standards we must follow.  There may still be cases where this doesn’t change how we’ve done things for years, but for the most part shops like ours are now being forced to restructure some of these services.

Not unlike all our services, we’re committed to caring for your vehicle at a fair price and will discuss options should you be working with a limited budget.  These upgraded processes will help you avoid the most common types of vehicle failure, and possibly a catastrophic accident.

Albeit a touch outdated from an aesthetic standpoint, this video (courtesy of NHTSA) does a great job at breaking down these TPMS advances.  We believe you’ll better understand this to be another step in the right direction for vehicle manufacturers.

Click HERE for TPMS Made Simple by NHTSA

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George Supercedes Honest Abe

6 04 2012

This change was made a few or more years ago but many of you may not have realized it.  You’ve probably heard of this technique using a penny and Abe Lincoln’s head instead. That measure gives you 2/32 of an inch – half the suggested amount.  Now, the industry has developed a more accurate method, and it just so happens it involves Abe’s buddy George.

There’s an easy way to tell when a tire’s worn to 4/32 of an inch. Just insert a quarter into the tread. Put it in upside down. If the tread doesn’t cover George Washington’s hairline, it’s time to replace your tires. With a Canadian quarter, the tread should cover the numbers in the year stamp.

When talking about stopping power, drivers tend to focus on brakes. But our tires are where the rubber meets the road. So having good brakes isn’t enough. Motorists have to have tires with enough traction to translate braking power into stopping power.

Let’s focus on stopping in wet conditions. In order for a tire to have good contact with the road, it has to move the water out of the way. If it can’t move the water, the tire will actually ride on top of a thin film of water.  That’s called hydroplaning.

At Community Automotive Repair we want our customers to know that if it’s really bad, you can actually spin out of control. At best, you won’t stop as fast.

So how does a tire move water? It has channels for water to flow through. Look at a tire and you’ll see channels: channels that run around the tire and channels that flow across the tire. They’re designed to direct water away from the tire so it can contact the road better.

And the deeper the channel, the more water it can move. A brand new tire has very deep channels and can easily move a lot of water. As the tire wears down, the channels become shallower and can move less water. When it wears down enough, it can seriously affect your ability to stop on wet roads.

So that’s why it’s so important for drivers to replace the tires on their vehicles when they get worn. Consumer Reports and other advocate groups call for a standard of 3/32 of an inch and they have the studies to prove it.

By comparison, you’ve probably seen the wear indicator that’s molded into tires. When tires are worn 3/32 of an inch, the tread wear bar is visible. So the recommended standard has twice the tread depth as a completely worn out tire.

And that little bit of additional tread makes a big difference. Stopping distances are cut dramatically on wet roads. A safe stop from expressway speeds with 4/32 of an inch of tread would result in a crash with worn out tires.

Of course, tires are a big ticket item for vehicle owners. Most of us want to get as many miles out of them as we can. But there’s a real safety trade-off. It’s your choice.

Give us a call today or send an e-mail if you have questions about what tires we recommend for your specific vehicle.  With multiple local partnerships, in addition to availability from Tire Rack direct, we have you covered.

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April showers bring…

1 04 2011

…May flowers, right?  Yes, we believe that’s the case.  But we’re going with the more obvious here: RAIN

Where there’s heavy rain, the right set of wiper blades can help keep visibility strong and prevent a potential traffic accident.  Most of us haven’t given much thought to wiper blades because they’re simply a necessity and we’re OK with what was on the vehicle when we bought it.  Does that describe you?  If so, that’s perfectly alright but you should still know your options.  Turns out there’s quite a bit more than the universal approach to wiper blade selection once you’ve selected the proper length for your specific vehicle.

Here are the most common variations on what’s available in today’s marketplace:

01. Standard – these are your run of the mill blades that resemble a coat hanger and are generally installed using a hook-shaped wiper arm fitting.

02. Flat – these blades do not feature a hanger-shaped frame, rather they have a tensioned metal strip that runs the length of each blade to form equal contact with your windshield.

03. Specific/OEM – these are blades that are designed specifically for your vehicle, direct from the manufacturer, and often cannot be found in retail outlets.

04. Refill – these cannot be used on the “flat” blades, but for conventional/standard, you can replace the rubber blade without replacing the frame. (*)

* this method should not be repeated several times consecutively or you run the risk of the blades malfunctioning

Most blades these days come with a wetnap cloth/solvent, which should be used prior to installation.  This compound helps revitalize the rubber since it can become dry and brittle over time (even while in packaging), and you’re more likely to maximize the effectiveness and productivity of your wiper blades this way.

Blades can be found for as little as $5 each or upwards of $100/pair.  Bosch blades have stood the test of time and although they are slightly more expensive than a typical Rain-X or Anco look-alike, they have proven to last and perform consistently.  Bosch carries several different styles to fit both your budget and preference.  We stock a wide variety of brands and options.  Please feel free to contact us with any questions (616.774.7048).

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