Category Archives: Tips and Advice

Here are all the facts you need to know when buying new tires

There comes a time when every car owner needs to buy a new set of tires. With so many brands and types of tires on the market, you may be wondering how you select the best ones for your vehicle. That’s what this blog post is all about. We’re going to give you all the facts you need to know about buying tires.

How do you know when you need to buy new tires?

First and foremost, it’s important to know when you need to buy new tires. Remember, they are what holds your vehicle to the road. If your car’s tires don’t have enough tread, your vehicle won’t have a lot of traction. It actually becomes quite dangerous as heavily worn and balding tires put you at greater risk for blowouts and accidents. You need that tread depth to help keep you from sliding all over the road during inclement weather.

Once a month, make a habit of checking the air pressure in your tires and inspecting the tread depth and wear. The best way to measure tread depth is with a gauge. If you don’t have one, you can use the old standby… a penny. Simply insert a penny into a tire tread groove making sure Abraham Lincoln’s head is facing down and toward you. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, your tires need to be replaced.

What kind of tires should you buy?

It all depends on what you are looking for in a tire and your budget. If you liked the way your current tires performed on your vehicle, you can always buy the same brand and model. If you think you want to try a different brand or you have some budget constraints, there are a few things to take into consideration:

  • Load Index – In simple terms, the load index is the amount of weight the tires car support at maximum air pressure. Passenger car tires have a load index that is less than the load index you would need for a light-duty truck (found on pickups and SUVs). Very important to remember is that you should never install tires that have a lower load index than the tires that were installed on your vehicle at the factory.
  • Rim Diameter – You’ll want to make sure the tires fit properly on the rims.
  • Speed Rating – As you drive your vehicle, the tires heat up. The speed rating determines the tire’s ability to prevent heat build-up. A tire heats up more when you are driving long distance on the highway than it does when you are driving around town. If you will be doing a lot of highway driving, you may want to select a tire that has a higher speed rating.

The easiest way to select new tires is to ask your Shade Tree Garage auto technician. All of our team members can help you select the best tire for your driving needs and your budget. If you have your auto maintenance done at our shop on a regular basis, we will also let you know when it’s time to replace the tires.

What is the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) and why do I need it?

Your vehicle is equipped with a Tire Pressure Monitoring System that is designed to let you know when the air pressure in your tires is too low. When your tires are being replaced, the TPMS will need to be reset. If your vehicle’s dashboard is alerting you to the fact that the TPMS is faulty, you will have to have this part replaced when you replace your tires. To learn more about this safety feature, click on this link (link to TPMS blog article.

Should you have the wheels aligned when the tires are replaced?

Yes. It’s a good idea to have the wheels aligned when you have new tires installed. If you don’t, bad alignment will cause your new tires to wear out quicker than they should. When we install your tires, we will mount and balance them using our state-of-the-art Hunter equipment. We can also perform an alignment for you.

Remember, we can answer all the questions you may have about purchasing new tires for your vehicle. You can buy them through us – we carry Michelin tires. If you buy them on-line, like Tire Rack, you can have the tires shipped to us and we can install them for you. Click here to schedule an appointment to have your tires replaced at our auto repair shop in Morristown, NJ.

photo credit: Clearly Ambiguous Tired via photopin (license)

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What does it mean when my car’s brake warning light comes on?

If your car’s brake warning light is on, you should bring your vehicle in to have it checked out immediately. Your vehicle may be unsafe to drive. Find out why the brake warning light may have come on and what you need to do about it by reading on.

Vehicles are equipped with several lights that deal with the braking system: 1) the parking brake (this one is typically “red” or “yellow”), 2) the anti-lock braking system (usually “yellow – click here to learn more about the anti-lock braking system), and 3) the brake system warning light (“red” in color). The first sign that the situation is a critical issue is the fact that the brake warning light is “red” in color. A red dashboard warning light always indicates a serious problem. If you are driving and the brake warning light comes on, you should safely pull over and call for a tow. If it comes on and stays on when you start the car, don’t drive. Again, call for a tow.

Note: For cars with only one brake warning light, first make sure the parking brake isn’t engaged before calling for a tow.

Why did the brake warning light come on?

When there is low brake fluid, the brake warning light will come on. Here is a list of some of the more common reasons this happens:

  1. The brake pads are worn. When the brake pads are worn out, the fluid level will go down. When the brake pads are replaced, you may need to add the proper amount and type of brake fluid for your vehicle. If we are doing the brake repair work on your vehicle, we will check to see if you need brake fluid and add it for you. The type of brake fluid your vehicle requires will be stamped on the top of the reservoir and is also listed in your owner’s manual.
  2. There is a leak in the braking system. A brake fluid leak is a very serious concern. If all the fluid leaks out, you won’t be able to stop your vehicle. Brake fluid can leak anywhere in the braking system, from the brake lines to the master cylinder.

If the light isn’t on, but you think you are having problems with your brakes, bring your vehicle in for a brake check (click here to read more about your car’s braking system). If you are concerned about driving it, you can have your vehicle towed to our auto repair shop in Morristown, NJ. Click here to schedule an appointment for brake repair with Shade Tree Garage.


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How to Tell if There’s a Problem with Your Car’s Catalytic Converter

The catalytic converter in your vehicle plays an important role in reducing exhaust emissions and pollution. It looks like a simple metal canister but it is filled with a mixture of precious metals, typically platinum and palladium, that act as a chemical catalyst. Its job is to covert the gases coming from the engine combustion process into non-harmful gases. Typically, a catalytic converter that is failing will begin to produce a number of symptoms.

As with any type of major engine component, it’s important to have it checked out right away. When it comes to a catalytic converter, here are some of the symptoms to look for:

  • Poor engine performance is one of the first signs there may be a problem with the catalytic converter. A catalytic converter can sometimes clog because of a problem in another part of the fuel system. When it becomes clogged, you will begin to notice a decrease in fuel efficiency and an inability to accelerate properly. The engine may even misfire or stall.
  • Is the Check Engine or Service Engine Soon light on? This could be the result of a simple problem but it could also indicate an issue with the catalytic converter. Failure to correct this problem will eventually lead to issues with the catalytic converter, including having to replace this expensive part. Read more about the Check Engine light here.
  • You may notice a rattling noise. As the chemical catalyst ages, it begins to break down into smaller pieces. These pieces of catalyst will cause a rattling noise under your vehicle. If the catalyst breaks down into pieces that are too small, it can block or restrict the flow of exhaust from your vehicle.
  • There’s a rotten-egg smell coming from the tailpipe. This smell occurs because the catalyst has broken down too much and leads to the emission of sulfur dioxide.

What Can I Do to Prevent Problems with the Catalytic Converter?

  1. Make sure your vehicle is tuned up regularly. If you aren’t sure how often you should have a tune-up done on your vehicle, no need to worry. Our certified auto technicians will let you know when your vehicle is due for a tune-up.
  2. Take care of Check Engine or Service Engine Soon light problems right away. It could be as simple as replacing a faulty gas cap or an oxygen sensor. If you continue to ignore this warning light, you could cause serious engine damage, including having to replace the catalytic converter.

If you are noticing any of the symptoms we mentioned here, bring your vehicle to the trusted auto professionals at Shade Tree Garage in Morristown, NJ. Click here to schedule an appointment for catalytic converter repair in our auto repair shop.

photo credit: follettmotors_com Audi A4 1.9 TDI Catalytic Converter via photopin (license)

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What’s wrong with my car’s heater?

No one wants to find out their car heater isn’t working when it’s cold outside. If you have cold air or no air blowing out of your car’s vents, there’s a problem with the cooling and heating system. This blog post will address what might be happening with your car’s heating system and will also outline the steps to take to make sure it’s properly maintained.

Your car’s heater is actually part of the cooling system. The radiator, thermostat, belts, water pump and hoses circulate water through the engine to cool it down from the combustion process. As the water/coolant mixture flows through the system, it is heated. The hot water is sent to a heater core where a fan blows the warm air into your car through the vents.

Important Tip: If the heater in your car isn’t working, it’s important to have it checked out by a professional. Because it is part of the engine’s cooling system, a non-working heater could indicate a problem with the cooling system itself. If left unfixed, you could end up with an engine that overheats and becomes damaged. 

Why isn’t my car heater working?

There are any number of issues that can cause a problem with your car’s heating system.

  1. There’s not enough coolant in the system. If the coolant level is low, it could be the result of a radiator cap that is leaking or a slow leak in the cooling system. When the engine has cooled down, check the level of the antifreeze in the radiator. If it’s low, fill it back to the proper level with the appropriate mixture of coolant and water. You’ll also want to schedule an appointment to find out from where the coolant is leaking.
  2. There’s a pocket of air in the heater core. Warm water flows into and out of the heater core through hoses. Both the inlet hose and outlet hose should feel warm when the engine is at operating temperature. If the outlet hose doesn’t feel warm, there could be a pocket of air minimizing the flow of water out of the heater core.
  3. The thermostat isn’t working properly. A bad thermostat could prevent the engine from heating up properly which means your car’s heater won’t work.
  4. The heating system has a defective heater control valve. When the heater control valve is open, hot coolant will pass through the valve and into the heater core. When the valve isn’t working properly, the heater won’t produce warm air, it could leak coolant, or the heater will operate erratically.
  5. The heater core is clogged from debris in the cooling system. If debris has caused a clog in the heater core, it will need to be replaced.
  6. The blower motor isn’t working. If no air is coming out of the vents, electrical problems or a faulty blower could be the culprit.
  7. There could be a kink in a heater hose. 
  8. The water pump stopped working. If the coolant isn’t flowing properly through the system, the heater won’t work properly. 

How can I prevent problems with my car’s heating system?

When you properly maintain your car’s cooling system, you are helping to keep the heater in good working order. Proper maintenance includes flushing and replacing the coolant on a regular schedule. Equally important is the need to replace worn belts and hoses. You will also want to repair any leaks in the cooling system. Our certified auto technicians can assist you in this area. When you bring your vehicle to our auto repair shop in Morristown, New Jersey, we conduct a 27-point courtesy inspection on the major engine systems. If we notice a problem with your cooling system, we will alert you so you can have it taken care of before it becomes a major repair issue.

The best way to keep all the components of your car running properly is to trust its care and any repairs to the automotive professionals at Shade Tree Garage in Morristown, NJ. Our certified technicians can quickly diagnose and correct any problems with your vehicle’s heater. Click here to schedule an appointment for car heating system repair in our auto repair shop.

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8 Tips to Make Your Vehicle Last Longer

Imagine driving an older car that is safe and reliable and not having a car payment. Who wouldn’t want to stash away the cash that would be spent on car payments? Think it’s not possible? Think again. We are here to tell you that by doing these 8 things, you can make your vehicle last longer… and avoid the expenses associated with purchasing a new vehicle.

Making a vehicle last longer takes deliberate effort. A car owner must do more than have the oil changed every now and then, and the tires replaced when they wear out.  By following a proper preventive maintenance schedule, you can easily double, if not triple the useful life of your vehicle. In fact, we recently replaced the engine on a 2007 Chevy Suburban that had more than 250,000 miles on it. (check out our video on YouTube) The owner obviously took excellent care of the vehicle or replacing the engine would not have made sense. By making the commitment to regular maintenance, you will be able to do the same. You will also spend less at the pumps and on automotive repair. Here are some more ways to help make your vehicle last longer:

  1. Use high-quality synthetic oil, fluids and replacement parts. When you bring your vehicle to Shade Tree Garage, we already take this into consideration and will use high-quality fluids and parts. Doing so doesn’t necessarily mean you’re spending more, but it does mean you will get more life out of your vehicle. If you have to bring your vehicle somewhere else, make sure they do the same.
  2. Take care of your vehicle’s cooling system. Have the coolant/antifreeze replaced on a regular schedule. Inspect hoses and belts and have them replaced at the first sign of excessive wear and tear.
  3. Service the transmission regularly. This doesn’t have to be done as often as you replace coolant, but you shouldn’t wait too long either. If your vehicle is approaching 100,000 miles and you never had the fluid and filter changed, check with us before doing so. At that point, you may end up causing more problems than if you left the transmission alone.
  4. Replace the timing belt and other important belts before they break. Click here to find out why this is important to change your timing belt.
  5. Don’t neglect your tires, brakes and suspension system. Regularly rotate and align your tires. Watch for signs of excessive wear and tear. If you notice any signs of problems with your brakes or suspension system, have your vehicle inspected right away (click here to read more about your car’s suspension system).
  6. Know the signs and symptoms of potential car problems so you can have them fixed before they become major repairs. While you are driving, be on the alert for odd noises from your engine, suspension and braking system. We have a lot of articles in our blog that identify the signs for different car problems from brakes to suspension. When in doubt, have us check your vehicle out.
  7. If possible, keep your vehicle in a garage. When exposed to the elements, a vehicle’s parts will degrade faster. Sun can fade the interior. Snow and rain will oxidize the paint, and over time, will cause parts to undergo rust and corrosion. A garage-kept vehicle will not only boost its longevity; it will bring you more buyers and a higher price if you decide to sell your vehicle.
  8. Keep the interior and exterior clean. Regular washes and waxes help preserve the paint and prevent rust on your car, truck or van’s body. When washing your vehicle, make sure you clean the under-carriage, too. Don’t neglect the interior! Vacuum and clean the interior of your vehicle once a month to prevent premature wear.  By taking care of the exterior and interior of your vehicle, you will be in the position to notice and fix scratches and replace or repair loose or broken parts.

Shade Tree Garage can help you keep your car on the road for many years to come. We will also give you peace of mind about the safety and reliability of your car. Click here to schedule your next maintenance or repair with Shade Tree Garage in Morristown, NJ.

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Car Repair: Maximize Your Experience by Knowing these Four Things

At Shade Tree Garage, we take the customer experience very seriously. Your satisfaction is our utmost priority. We want to make sure your car is fixed right. We also want to make sure your experience is top-notch. The way we do that is by communicating with you throughout the car repair process. As it is with any type of business, there are common questions that come up when car owners bring their vehicles in for repair. We are always happy to answer any questions you may have about your vehicle and its repair. This blog post will focus on providing answers to the most frequently asked questions about car repair.

Question #1 – Why is there a charge for diagnostic testing?

Your vehicle is a sophisticated machine and can have 6 or more computers controlling how each component in your engine operates. Diagnostic testing goes beyond taking a look under the hood and reading the codes from a scan tool. Our certified auto technicians combine their years of experience along with the use of specialized equipment to determine what is causing your vehicle to operate less than optimally.

To demonstrate further – A customer brings her vehicle in because the check engine light is on. The scan tool lets our technician know there is an issue with the oxygen sensor. If we stopped there and replaced the oxygen sensor, you may drive out and a few days later the check engine light will come back on. Because an issue with the oxygen sensor could be coming from a number of faulty parts, we need to continue with the diagnostic process. We check the output of various electrical signals and analyze the data against the symptoms this customer described when she dropped off her vehicle. It can sometimes take an hour or more to diagnose a problem with the engine.

This video from the Car Care Council explains it perfectly >

Question #2 – I already know what’s wrong with my car. Why can’t you just give me a repair estimate?

Our highest priority is to fix your vehicle right… the first time you bring it in to our auto repair shop in Morristown, NJ. Because we want to make sure any estimate we provide is as accurate as possible, it would be unprofessional for us to give you a price without looking at your vehicle, especially if the repair work is complicated. Let me ask you a question. If your dentist provided you with a quote for some dental work, would another dentist provide you a quote over the phone without taking a look at your teeth first?  It’s in your best interest to have us look at your vehicle before we provide you with a written estimate.

Question #3 – What can I do to help facilitate the repair process?

The more you can tell us about what you are experiencing with your car, the better able we will be to diagnose the problem. The easiest way to do this is to write down any symptoms ahead of time. If you notice any odd sounds, funny sensations or strange smells, let us know. Does your car hesitate? Are you having problems starting your car? Make note of it and tell us when you drop off your vehicle. It’s equally important to make sure you leave the best phone number on which we can reach you. If we aren’t able to get in touch with you, the repair work on your car will be delayed.

Question #4 – How long will take to complete the repair on my car?

It all depends on the complexity of the problem and when we receive your approval to do the work. As soon as we get the go-ahead from you, we will let you know how long we think the job will take. And remember, if transportation becomes a problem, we can provide free local transportation to your home, office or the train station. If you prefer, we can make arrangements to pick up your car from your home or place of business. We also have rental cars on site.

The best way to avoid car repair issues and their associated expenses is to make an investment in preventive maintenance. Don’t delay any repair work. Doing so, could make a small problem turn into a big one. Need to schedule service or repair with Shade Tree Garage in Morristown, NJ? Click here.

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Replacing an Evaporator in a Car Air Conditioner

This video shows the work being done to replace a leaking evaporator in a car’s air conditioning system. As you will see, it’s a major undertaking.


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Is a tune-up really necessary?

Years ago, it was much more common to hear about someone having a tune-up done on their vehicle. Now, with more sophisticated computer-controlled engine, it may seem like tune-ups aren’t a necessary part of car care. The fact is, tune-ups are an important part of vehicle maintenance and should not be overlooked.

If you look through the owner’s manual for your vehicle, you’ll notice a number of service intervals. The simple service is the regular oil and filter change and tire rotation. After that, the service intervals become more extensive. A tune-up is identified as a major service and includes replacement of the spark plugs and spark plug wires. We used to change spark plugs at regular intervals, but with today’s vehicles, manufacturers have extended those intervals to as long as 100k miles.

We see a lot of miss-fire codes when the check engine light comes on, and all too often, the failure is an ignition coil.  Nowadays, instead of a large robust coil with wires delivering a spark to the cylinder, modern engines use a “coil over plug design” which means there are many small coils.  Great design, great engineering… with one exception.  When a spark plug wears, the voltage demand rises exponentially. These new coils don’t have the reserve to meet the extra load and overheat to the point of failing. So while you may not think you need to change the spark plugs, it’s prudent to do it earlier than to wait until the recommended service interval.  If the coils don’t need to be replaced, you’ll save time, money and avoid the inconvenience of looking at that pesky check engine light.

What do we do when we tune up your car?

In addition to changing the oil and filter, there are a number of other services we perform when we tune up a vehicle. These include:

  1. Replacing spark plugs and wires. The spark plugs are a vital part in the engine combustion process and ignites the fuel. When one or more spark plugs becomes dirty, the engine will begin to misfire and you’ll experience a definite decrease in fuel economy. Your vehicle may even feel sluggish, especially when it comes to accelerating.
  2. Correcting the timing. The proper timing is important to engine performance. When the timing is off (which happens from regular wear and tear), spark plugs can fire and/or fuel can be released at the wrong time. If you have an older vehicle, timing becomes an even more important issue to the efficient operation of your car’s engine.
  3. Scanning the onboard diagnostic (OBD) system. We use a special scan tool to see if the computer is identifying any problems with the engine. Our ASE-certified technicians will also check and adjust the idle speed (if needed).
  4. Replacing the fuel filter, PVC valve and engine air filter. The combustion process requires the proper mixture of air and fuel for your engine to operate properly. Replacing these filters will allow for optimal performance.

When was the last time you had your vehicle tuned up? Have you been noticing any problems with engine performance or poor gas mileage? It may be time for you to have a tune-up done on your car. Trust your tune-up to the car care professionals at Shade Tree Garage. Click here to schedule your appointment at our auto repair shop in Morristown, New Jersey.

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Answers to FAQs about the Engine Oil Warning Light

If you were driving down the road and your engine oil warning light came on, would you know what to do? Most people don’t. As a car owner, it’s important for you to know what each of your dashboard lights is trying to communicate to you.  Some lights, like the engine oil light, are critical warning lights and indicate a serious problem. Others, like the check engine light, are there to alert you to an issue so you can have it fixed before it becomes a major repair. In this blog post, we provided the answers to some frequently asked questions about the engine oil warning light.

Q. What should I do if my oil warning light comes on?

A. Glad you asked this question. The “red” engine oil warning light on your dashboard means you need to take action right away. This light should not be ignored. When the engine oil warning light comes on, there has been a serious drop in engine oil pressure. Safely pull over as soon as you are able and call for a tow. Continuing to drive when this warning light is on could cause serious engine damage and costly repairs. If the engine seizes, you’ll either have to buy a new engine OR a new car. If you start your engine and the light comes on and stays on, turn off your car and check the oil level. If you have to add oil, make sure it’s the same as what you currently have in your engine.

Q. Why did the engine oil light come on?

A. Sufficient oil pressure is required to make sure all engine parts are properly lubricated. If the oil pressure drops too low, the engine oil warning light comes on. Some of the common reasons the light comes on are when there’s not enough oil in the engine or there’s a faulty oil pressure sending unit.

Q. What can I do to protect my vehicle’s engine?

A. To operate properly, and for the long-term, your vehicle’s engine needs to be maintained. By committing to regular oil changes, you are extending the life of your engine.  It’s also a good idea to check the level of oil in your engine each month. That way, you will be able to quickly know if your oil level is low. If you find that you have to add oil each month, there’s an oil leak that should be repaired. Just give us a call and our auto technicians will be able to locate and repair that leak for you. 

Regular car maintenance at Shade Tree Garage is the best way to make sure your car’s engine is operating properly. We keep a detailed history of all the services and repairs performed in our auto repair shop in Morristown, New Jersey. With each visit, we perform a 27-point vehicle inspection and can alert you to parts that need to be replaced. Click here to schedule maintenance or repair at Shade Tree Garage in Morristown, NJ.

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Common Summer Car Care Problems and How You Can Avoid Them

Whether you are driving to your vacation destination, heading to the Jersey shore, or just driving around town, summer driving can pose some problems if your vehicle isn’t up-to-date on its maintenance. Winter isn’t the only time of year that can wreak havoc on a vehicle engine. Extreme temperatures in either direction along with lack of regular car maintenance are responsible for many break downs by the side of the road. You can avoid three of the most common summer car care problems by doing this…

  1. Take care of your vehicle’s cooling system. An overheated engine is at the top of the list of common summer car care problems. The cooling system consists of the radiator, water pump, thermostat, fan, belts and hoses. These parts all work together to remove heat from the engine. The normal operating temperature for car engines is between 195 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s hot! If the coolant in the system is old, it won’t be able to prevent the engine from overheating. Worn hoses and belts can also break on a hot summer day, spewing coolant everywhere. To make sure your car, truck or van is protected from overheating, regularly change the engine oil and coolant. It’s also a good idea to visually inspect hoses and belts and replace them at the first sign of excessive wear and tear like cracks and bulges. If you begin to notice the water temperature gauge on the dashboard is running hotter than normal or you haven’t had maintenance performed on the cooling system in a while, bring it in to Shade Tree Garage in Morristown, New Jersey. If the engine does overheat, safely pull over and call for a tow. Continuing to drive an overheated engine will cause serious engine damage.
  2. Maintain your car’s battery: It’s just as common for a battery to fail in the summertime as it is in the winter. If your car battery is about 4 years old, you should have it tested. The Shade Tree Garage technicians can do that for you and will let you know if you need a new battery.
  3. Keep up with tire maintenance: The best practice for tire maintenance is to check the tire air pressure once a month and to add air when the tires are low (make sure you check the pressure in the morning, before you drive your vehicle). Tires that are over or under-inflated create a serious safety hazard. You’ll also end up spending more on gas and will have to replace tires more often than you should. Another good habit to develop is to regularly inspect the tires to be sure there is enough tread on them and that they are wearing evenly and don’t have bulges or cracks. When you need to replace your tires, give us a call. Not only can we help you select the right tires for your vehicle and budget, we can install, mount and balance them.

The best deterrent to these common summer car care problems is to make a commitment to regular maintenance. Click here to schedule your summer car maintenance with Shade Tree Garage in Morristown, NJ.

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